iHobo: An interesting experiment in game form

Firstly, let’s make one thing clear – iHobo is a serious app about a serious problem. It’s made by Depaul UK, an organisation that helps young people who are homeless, disadvantaged or vulnerable try to get back on their feet.

This iPhone app is a great way to highlight the plight of those folk on the streets using a game of sorts a bit like a Tamagotchi, but with muggings and drugs. It’s a really interesting project, which at times is unintentionally humorous.

Above: There's a sense of satisfactionknowing that you've been there for him

You get alerts sent to your phone, that can appear at any moment. I awoke the other night to a message saying the young homeless lad needed my help. I fired up the app to find he’d sold the bloody sleeping bag I’d given him earlier in the day to buy drugs. I was pretty furious with him. Then I had another message minutes later and he was really cold – turns out those drugs can’t keep him as warm as the sleeping bag I gave him.

The most frustrating part of iHobo is that you can only offer one of three types of help per hour. You can hand over said sleeping bag if he’s cold, a sandwich if he’s hungry or some change so he can get a hot meal or stay at a hostel. But despite needing constant attention you still only get theselimited inputs. You can check on his well-being via a screen of stats too like this...

Above: OK, so we haven't really stayed on top of things at this point

The temptation toleave him unaided when you're at work or doing other things is a test of your human decency and probably reflects your real life attitudes. It's really made methink about the way that I walk by and dismiss these people without so much as a second glance. Although, one time I didbuya guy a sandwich from M&S only for him to request a McDonald's instead. See beggars CAN be choosers.

Above: Of course he does. Jeez :(

He stays on the phone for three days at a time and always starts out optimistic, but regardless of our attention he always ends up getting smacked off his tits and OD-ing.Thesesad times are made that bitmore depressing as messages flash up saying things like 'He want's to go home and make sure his little sister is OK' or 'Anold school friend just walked past and totally ignored him'.

It really hammers home the point of these unfortunate souls and even the most stony-hearted bastards will feel for the virtual bum.Check it out at iTunes now

Nathan Irvine
Hi, I’m Nathan. You may remember me from such websites as, erm, this one circa 2011. Been hustling in games for over a decade and write for Official PlayStation, Official Xbox, Gamesmaster and more.