Credit: Mitchel Ceney

The Big Issue is experimenting with a new interactive game to give its readers an opportunity to virtually experience the path to homelessness.

With the new choose your own adventure-style feature Pick Your Path, readers make choices to see how easily people can fall into homelessness. They follow four stories with multiple endings, choosing between someone who has recently faced bereavement, left the armed forces, just arrived in the UK, or is battling addiction. Each story is based on the life of a real Big Issue vendor.

"This is the first time The Big Issue has tried anything like this so it is really new territory," says reporter Liam Geraghty who built the entire game himself using the open-source tool Twine. 

Credit: Mitchel Ceney

He added that despite the challenges, 2020 has been a year of innovation at The Big Issue. The publisher developed an app, a podcast, a map that allows subscriptions to individual vendors and completely changed its business model to ensure vendors have been supported throughout the covid-19 pandemic.

The innovative and interactive story is playable throughout the magazine as well as at the website. Three stories feature in the print magazine, as readers follow the tale from page to page, reading snippets below regular magazine features and making decisions about what to do next, before hearing about the real vendor’s life experience. Each story is illustrated by artists who have experienced homelessness, in collaboration with arts charity Accumulate.

"An interactive game format allowed us to put readers into the shoes of people who have fallen into homelessness," continues Geraghty, "in a way that goes beyond the written word.

"We hope that, by being forced to weigh up and make the decisions themselves, readers will be able to empathise with people who find themselves in these desperate situations which are far too common today."

Credit: Mitchel Ceney

Earl John Charlton is a Big Issue vendor in Newcastle whose life story of overcoming homelessness and addiction has inspired one of the paths that readers can explore. He said: "My survival instinct kicked in when I found myself homeless - it was built in me from a young age - and readers will be able to experience that.

"I think it’s vitally important that people know stories like mine so they can acknowledge homelessness, addiction and mental health and tackle them. I want to be at the forefront of getting that story out there and this experience will do that.

To help readers discover more about lives of those who found themselves without a home, The Big Issue magazine and bigissue.com features stories from its vendors on the My Pitch page every week.

"These stories are vital to understanding how to prevent homelessness in the future,” says Geraghty.

The editorial team hopes to inspire the audiences to take action once they understand how easily can people find themselves without a home.

Those wishing to help can buy a magazine from their local vendor or subscribe to receive it home. You can also support the Ride Out Recession Alliance aimed at preventing homelessness post-pandemic. Check the website for more ways to help end homelessness.

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