Let us introduce Szociopoly, the game of Hungarian reality
According to the survey of the Social Research Institute, 36,7% of the population of Hungary lives in material circumstances of severe deprivation. A family of four can be considered poor if they live with less than 163,000 Forints per month.
However, according to the 2017 research of Policy Agenda on subsistence levels, an average person needs a minimum of 24,919 Forints to cover their food, vitamin and mineral needs, which, in the case of a family of four means 99,676 forints. On top of this, there are costs associated with flat rental, utility costs, costs of transportation and school. It is not a hard task to calculate that to cover all of these expenses, this money is not enough.
Play to conquer negative stereotypes
It was in 2010 that the creators of Szociopoly got the idea of developing a game through which the players would be able to get an insight into the everyday lives of those whom we categorise as poor. They though that there were many negative stereotypes alive about people who are forced to benefit from unemployment benefits as many people think that they are in this situation because they are not willing to take on employment, are alcoholics and their priorities are to have as many children as possible.
During the game, you have to survive a month by using the money provided by subisidies, public work or occasional work. Those who decide to get into the shoes of a family in which children are also present, can come in for benefits like the Hungarian GYES (maternity benefit) or family allowance, but in these cases, it is worth taking into account having child care expenses.
Every day of the month has a special challenge for the players, with which their debts may be mounting further and further. In order to stay in the game, they have to look for alternative sources of income. For example, they can collect iron and hand it in at the MÉH stations, which activity would add 5000 Forints to their monthly income. Moreover, they can take on illegal work, even if with this they risk being found out and charged a fine. They can also look for an extertionate, but this they will have to pay back with an interest.
It’s not about winning, but about learning
Even though only a few players will manage to get through the month without incurring a debt, the game is not about winning, but about providing people with an experience through which they can become more sensitive towards their compatriots. For some people, playing Szociopoly will become the first time they start thinking about the fact that even if they despised those turning to illegal activities, if they were in the same situation, they might also go for this option.
Although the game was developed with young people in mind, within a short time, it became so popular that by now every age group, including groups of families, colleagues or friends, is welcome to sign up for a round. The game can even be played by 25-30 people at the same time, and it is actually even better if it is a group standing behind a piece as it enables differences of opinion to come to the surface. The game itself takes between 45 and 60 minutes, but it is better to calculate with an extra half an hour in order to have time to discuss the experiences, in which the facilitator will help as well. Also, in the Jurányi Incubatorhouse, we can also watch the unfolding of the game in the theatre where we can observe what others would do in the same situation.
Come and play!
Participation in the game is coordinated by the Chances for Children Association, you can get in touch with them to register for a round, or it is also possible to invite the whole play. However, if case you would like to play several times, it might be a good idea to order the game on Szociopoly’s website. Also, you can try the "game" at Támaszpont - MOPKA at Veresegyház, also following an initial registration. Those who are still hesitant whether they should go for it can also gather further information and read the testimonies of participants on the site.
Pictures: Chances of Children Association/Szász Marcell, Horváth Éva