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AddictingGames - the Web site that published ripped-from-the-headlines games such as "Baseball Juiced," "Trillion Dollar Bailout," "Where's the Naughty Governor?" and "Hero on the Hudson" - is tackling its riskiest project yet: turning the slump in the housing market into something fun.
The result is "Mortgage Meltdown," a Bizarro-world version of Monopoly that is available for free PC play. Instead of buying properties and trying to corner the real-estate market, your goal is to keep your head above water and wait for the economy to turn around.
Pretty much everything that can go wrong does, from troublesome tenants to property-tax hikes to earthquakes. If you can hang in there for four years, you might see a nice windfall at the end.
Most of AddictingGames's "NewsGames" projects are quick-hit gags that satirize current events and are designed for one or two minutes of play. But David Williams, senior vice president of Nickelodeon's Kids and Family Games Group (which now includes AddictingGames), says "Mortgage Meltdown" is "the deepest 'NewsGame' we've produced." A session lasts about 10 minutes, and it's a challenge to survive.
Few game designers would tackle such a dry topic, but Williams says, "You can turn anything into a game." The trick in pulling inspiration from the headlines is that "an event has to have legs.... Some things we don't touch because they may become irrelevant."
AddictingGames encourages its designers to be provocative, Williams says, although some material just isn't appropriate. "We looked at the Iranian election," he says. "But it unfolded too fast, and we were uncomfortable with how it ended."