Choose between dinner and sanitiser

Updated: May 10, 2020, 08:50 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

A multiple-choice game is making the urban Indian see the hardships of the lockdown through the eyes of a house help

With Rs 1,000 left in the kitty, you have to take up a challenge that may change how you look at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in India during the lockdown. Survive Covid, a game launched by Chennai-based NGO Yein Udaan and developed by XR Labs, is sure to hit you where it hurts. The game is simple: assume that you are a daily wage worker living with a family of four, trying to survive the lockdown with few resources available to you. The reality, however, isn't so simple.

The game begins with telling you that the government has just announced a 21-day lockdown. Will you walk 12 kms to your employers' house to collect the prorated salary of Rs 3,000? Or will you instead borrow R6,000 on an interest of 10 per cent from the nearest money lender? If you think this question comes with difficult choices, then you are in for a ride. It gets worse. You are asked to choose between food supplies for a month and cleaning supplies to keep the virus at bay. Your son suddenly complains of fever and chest pain, and you are left to decide whether to do a COVID test that will burn a hole in your pocket or feed him home remedies.

 The game challenges the player to survive a 21-day lockdown. But you either run out of money or contract the virus. PIC/GETTY IMAGES
The game challenges the player to survive a 21-day lockdown. But you either run out of money or contract the virus. Pic/ Getty Images

Survive Covid presents tough questions to its players who are required to survive 21 days with meagre amounts of money. Launched on April 29, the game aims to sensitise people on the many problems faced by daily wage workers. It also shows the reality of the working class. Unfortunately for this writer, her choices eventually made her and her virtual family homeless by the end of the game. At a time when most of us miss following our exercise routine at the gym and meeting close friends at the neighbourhood pub, rarely do we spare a thought for low-income families and how they are being stripped off their savings.

Srivatsan Jayasankar of XR Labs says, "The idea emerged from a phone discussion I had with Vedika Agarwal of Yein Udaan. We took 10 days to frame the and string them together to create a storyline." There are two main objectives to the game. He continues, "We wanted our friends and families to understand and appreciate the privileges they were enjoying, instead of complaining about not being able to travel and have a meal at their favourite restaurant. Secondly, we wanted to communicate the difficulties faced by people in the marginalised communities, using an experiential format."

Srivatsan Jayasankar
Srivatsan Jayasankar

According to Jayasankar, the game went live last on April 29 and grew to 50k users in less than five days. "It is designed in a very simple format. As soon as the link opens, you are walked through scenarios where you are presented with 3-4 options to choose from. The path of the game depends on the choices you make."

Vedika Agarwal
Vedika Agarwal

Agarwal, who works with low-income families in Chennai, explains, "You either lose the game if you run out of money or increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 by 100 per cent. And the challenge is to survive these 21 days with just a few thousand rupees. We have also offered users the option of offering donation at the end of the game, to help daily wagers."

You can play the game at http://covid.xrlabs.cloud/que?no=22

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