Cartoonist Tim Hunkin is well known for his sculptures and installations, having featured his work on the Channel 4 series The Secret Life of Machines, a show in which he explains the inner workings of many household appliances by way of animations.  His latest exhibition, Under The Pier at Southwold will soon showcase his latest engineering masterpiece, The Housing Ladder.  Based on the popular phrase that describes the uphill struggle that faces first time buyers, the interactive artwork lets users climb on a ladder in order to get their character all the way to the top of the housing ladder and into their new home. There are two ladders in the piece, the one that the character climbs up and the one that the user has to climb to get their character to move up the housing ladder.  The user does not actually climb, instead the ladder functions like a stepping machine from a gym; the rungs are there for the person to hold on to, but it is the action exerted on the rungs that forces the character up the housing ladder.  At random points throughout the game enemies appear, causing the climber to slip back down the ladder unless they freeze when the offending person pops out.  There are buy-to-let landlords, developers, investors and second homers, all out to get the person on the ladder and only by avoiding these pitfalls can the character gain their first home. The game has three settings; one of which makes reference to the “bank of Mum and Dad”, with the hardest level being “no deposit”.  The harder the setting, the more physical work the user has to do in order to get their character to the top, which is a good way of making the point that the climb up the housing ladder is different for every person starting out on that journey, and that for some it is almost impossible to get there without falling foul of some of the dangers of home buying.  The game automatically sends the character back to the bottom if they do not reach the top by the time their character turns 80; as the figure climbs the housing ladder they age, putting yet another factor into the mix.  Users pay to play the machine, which requires them to watch not only the age gauge going round and ageing their character, but to watch out for the villains of the piece as well, reacting accordingly in order to not lose their place on the housing ladder.  Playing the game may well be as exhausting as trying to buy a house, except that the pitfalls in real life have more far-reaching consequences than just having to start the game all over again, not to mention being more costly. Although the notion of the housing ladder is not a new one, this is the first time anyone has actually used a ladder in this way to illustrate the point.  The inspiration came from tales Hunkin was told by his part time employees, who have all had to leave London due to rising rent prices and the subsequent effect on the ability to save for a deposit for the average person.  More inspiration came from his local area; Hunkin lives in Suffolk, which is a popular destination for those looking for a second home; these dual-property-owners also make it harder for people to get on the property ladder in their home areas as this pushes prices up.  Next time you are in Suffolk why not pay it a visit and see how far you can get up the housing ladder?