Newsgames: Put the fun back into journalism

How can we make news more attractive? There are some methods, but one is very fun: it is called “newsgames”. What is it, exactly? A newsgame is an application of journalism in videogame form. In other terms, it is an interactive way of doing journalism.

Today journalism is facing a crisis that pushes it to reinvent itself. Most of the initiatives for creating a new type of journalism are online. However, few bring a plus-value to the audience. “Games work differently: they simulate how things work by constructing interactive models. Newsgames can persuade, inform, and titillate; make information interactive; recreate a historical event; put news content into a puzzle; teach journalism; and build a community.”[1]

The ideal newsgame should follow the list of criteria bellow: [2] A "newsgame" is an application of journalism in videogame form. - DR

· Created in response to a current event

· Released close enough to the event that it remains relevant

· Able to be understood in a couple minutes

· It tries to influence the player to a particular viewpoint (persuasive)

· Points out a problem

· Often implies a solution

· Rhetorically communicates through visuals, sound and gameplay (procedural rhetoric)

On newsgaming.com[3] we can find some newsgames that match with these criteria. It is the case for September 12th. This online game has still an impact 10 years after its publication. It was created in response to 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its goal is to make people think on the War on Terror that caused civilian causalities. September 12th clearly tries to influence the player viewpoint and does not hide it. However, it does not offer a solution or an alternative to war.

François Hollov? Ségolène Royic? Martine Aubraïe? Which candidate do you want to embody? - DR

Primaires à gauche is also a game that is worth. Launched by the French daily newspaper “Le Monde” few months ago, it was made to raise awareness of Socialist Party primary. This interactive game has a didactic objective and a very fun side. It is possible to embody one of the six candidates of the election. Although the Socialist Primary is over, it is still nice to try Primaires à gauche. Quite complex and long to play, the main goal is to learn more about the candidates and their opinions. It seems to work. The resemblance with reality is impressing and the game gives to politics a familiar aspect.

Another example of successful newsgame is Cutthroat Capitalism. Available on the site of “Wired Magazine”, it presented itself as “an economic analysis of the Somali pirate business model”. Amusing idea at first sight, this game uses an original way to make people think on a real problem.

newsgames

For several years now, a veritable movement acts to promote digital games in an ideal of social change. Its name: “Games for change”[4] also known as G4C. Since 2004 this community has built a non-profit organization that “facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts”. The games available on “Games for Change” website are diverse and can be played by both children and adults. Of course, we find on the Web different sorts of newsgames. Some of them do not aim to be instructive. They just want to be fun.

Videogames have an impact that other media do not have; by an interactive approach, people can feel more concerned. They have the power to make arguments, to influence opinions, to express ideas. This phenomenon is still recent; that is why we should follow this trend of gamification of the news. As professor Ian Bogost suggests: videogames could be a new way of doing journalism.[5]

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