Homelessness is a constant and tragic backdrop to urban life. Walk through any major city and you’ll find rough sleepers asking for change, tents pitched under overpasses, and charities trying to provide aid. Despite all these signs, and the rise in homelessness over the last decade, this tragedy is often ignored and overlooked on both a government and individual level, culminating in businesses even incorporating anti-homeless architecture into their designs, and laws that force rough sleepers out of certain areas.
A lot of games feature homelessness too, but these NPCs often suffer the same sympathetic dismissal as those on the streets. Several games trying to underpin the unpleasantness, hopelessness, or ruthlessness of their world sprinkle homelessness throughout their cities. But without any meaningful consideration, they are rarely any more than set decoration.
In 2016, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided let players explore a dystopian Prague filled with homeless beggars, there to emphasise the state of the world and its view of Augs. Like other NPCs wandering around Prague, some dispense tiny bits of dialogue if you try and interact with them, but others exist only to highlight the political climate. Players can’t offer them change or even reply to them, they are nothing but a feature of the landscape, like the inanimate billboards that also tell the city’s darker story. All the way back in 2010, the first game in the Metro series had homeless metro dwellers living alongside the apparently non-homeless residents of the metro. Although everyone was displaced by the nuclear holocaust above, there are still the haves and the have-nots in this world, with some seemingly extra homeless compared to others. At least these games allow you to give them a bullet or two.