Try to recall your earliest memories of a newspaper. What comes to mind? Reading the sports section? Laughing over comic strips? Conquering the crossword puzzle? We have always played with our news. By necessity and by invention, news is consumed imaginatively in a wider context than just a tallying of events.
This fact is especially evident in a digital environment, where news stories intermingle with disparate forms of communication, from social media networks to massively multiplayer online games. As much as the Internet and digitization have disrupted the business of news in countless ways, the growing multiplicity of information sources, games, play, leisure activities, and entertainment has expanded the daily news experience. Despite stigmas and f surrounding play and the news, we can draw vital lessons from their complex relationship. Many news reporter games the tools that online newsmakers use are similar to those applied in games.
Even the fervor with which we share information on social media can be considered playful.
Play the news: fun and games in digital journalism
This report describes specific intersections between games, play, and journalism, highlighting strategies, products, and sites of playful activity in the current news landscape with the goal of elucidating this pervasive phenomenon. Projects developed by the likes of The Washington Post and Mother Jones, and playful newsrooms like BuzzFeed, help illustrate some of the techniques journalists use to engage, inform, and educate readers through play.
The report also counsels journalists, developers, and editors about the best ways and means of incorporating games and play into the newsroom. I have drawn prescriptions from interviews with journalists, editors, and developers at a wide variety of journalistic institutions, from The Miami Herald to ProPublica. This research also includes commentary from educators in journalistic institutions, who are experimenting with playful de, and a of developers in the game industry, whose expertise helps bridge the gap between news reporter games games and the novel forms newsrooms are adapting 1.
This chapter scrutinizes the history of play and the news by tracing the origins of crossword puzzles in newspapers and exploring the fluctuations in popularity of those news products based primarily around video game-based elements, such as newsgames in the mids and gamification in the past five years. These historical vignettes expose some of the key motivations for newsrooms to use games and play—to engage and maintain users, provide support and richness to the news bundle, and modernize traditional news formats.
The second chapter establishes some of the common attributes of games and play in current digital news products.
Lesson share: writing: the reporter game
Following this discussion is a glossary of existing game and play mechanics in journalism. Certain digital newsrooms are becoming increasingly playful environments in which news producers and the products they create are both experimental and fun.
Rather than snubbing play as merely childish, it inspires a variety of newsroom practices, from bolstering reader loyalty to encouraging improvisation Little is taken for granted in this dynamic news environment, and empathy, fun, and novelty are continuously encouraged.
As the news industry struggles financially, the video game industry has become one of the most lucrative in the world—a seventy-six billion dollar industry in What economic lessons could digital newsrooms take from the game industry, even as both compete for views and clicks?
This section breaks down different business models in the game industry and their applicability to news products. Even the most fervent newsgame advocates recognize that there are limits for when and how to use games in the newsroom.
Certain types of content may not be best represented in game formats.
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Also, the culture of journalism, from graduate and professional schools to entrenched news organizations, seems to have become resistant to playful environments, which le to the isolation of playful deers and developers in newsrooms. Furthermore, the use of games and play appears to have both negative and positive effects on the perceived brand of a news organization. Practically, the most ificant deterrents in game usage are the skills, time, and financial resources required to create, deploy, and maintain these products.
The last chapter of this report dispenses practical advice and best practices for employing games and play within the newsroom based on the work of not only successful journalists, but also game deers and developers.
This research report advocates for a flexible newsroom, willing to tailor its products and departments to its readership and subject matter. Just as game deers espouse both user testing and continual tinkering in order to cultivate a truly immersive and fun game, similar practices can be instituted inside newsrooms.
Play the news: fun and games in digital journalism
At the same time, the space in which people make news should be rethought, with fewer rigid departmental boundaries and a more diverse staff. Of course, there is no singular news reporter games or method that will work across all newsrooms, and constant adaptation must accompany these innovations. While offering guidance about specific popular tools for game de, I support the development of open source and open access tools.
This will not only allow new playful forms of storytelling to emerge, but also aid in the creation of standards for the further preservation of multimedia and interactive projects. For digital newsrooms already built around much of the same technology and practices of game deers, a playful approach seems particularly attractive. It was all the rage—mobile, inexpensive, and in almost every newspaper.
Its checkerboard pattern adorned dresses and jewelry. There were Broadway songs written about it. Even as it was praised as a diversion and new form of education, some feared this contagious invention. The trajectory of the crossword puzzle epitomizes the relationship between games, play, and the news: 3.
Technology — Despite its laborious production, the crossword quickly prospered due to popular demand. Print technology made the newspaper ubiquitous, affordable, and portable. This allowed puzzle enthusiasts to play almost anywhere at any time.
User Feedback and Iterability — While it was professionals who deed and published puzzles, amateurs helped to shape them.
The crossword subsequently changed its shape and structure, spawning a multitude of copycats and offspring. Thus, the rules of crossword puzzles developed from the bottom up, not the top down. Limitations and Purpose — Crosswords accommodated a wide array of content, much of which was not the news.
When The New York Times began publishing crossword puzzles in the s, it did so with the dictum of deing some around news subjects. Farrar soon disregarded this edict, partially because she felt that current events, like World War II, were too depressing.
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The crossword did not suit every situation. The News Bundle — The crossword never replaced traditional news formats. Instead it was part of the bundle of information, entertainment, and advertising offered to readers who bought the newspaper for the comics or puzzle section as much as the news. It is worth noting that the crossword endured as part of the bundle even when distribution systems changed, and today remains conspicuous online. It has continued to adapt, as have its adherents.
Booms and Busts in Popularity — While perpetually fascinating, there have been definitive cycles of interest in crosswords, especially through the craze of the s and a smaller echo in the s. While puzzles and quizzes have invaded newspapers, television, teletext machines, and the web, newsmakers have regarded the inception of the video game and its popular ascent somewhat skeptically. Nonetheless, there have been attempts to incorporate the theory, practices, and de of video games into journalistic products.
The rise of newsgames began in the mid s.
In an outstanding example, Darfur is Dyingproduced as a t venture between mtvU, the Reebok Human Rights Foundation, and the International Crisis Group, users played at experiencing daily life in a refugee camp. Difficult and expensive to de, many of the newsgames of the s adhered to a model of collaboration between journalists and game deers with investment from philanthropic foundations and civic-minded partners.
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The book also emphasized the experiential, embodied quality of games and their ability to simply and clearly articulate systems rather than chronological or narrative-based stories. After a surfeit of investment in the second half of the s, newsgames lost favor with producers and financiers. Gamification became the subject of criticism and curiosity in both the game de world and the news community, propelled by the idea that game elements like leaderboards, points, and badges could incentivize digital media users to participate more ardently in an activity.
Google News, the Huffington Post, and Mashable appended badges and points to their web s.
Lesson share: writing: the reporter game
The fervor over gamification in the newsworld quickly cooled, and many organizations soon dropped badges and prizes. Critics discounted the idea that some uniform game element, such as a badge, could work universally in any kind of news distribution. At its worst, such attempts seemed crass, as when the Israeli Defense Force attempted to gamify its news-oriented public relations blog with badges shortly before an invasion into Palestinian territory. This brief history of games and the news showcases how little has changed in the process of integrating the two.
Fundamentally, crossword puzzles, newsgames, and gamified elements rely on effective user engagement. All three innovations can educate and inform, as well as news reporter games the public through new and imaginative experiences of play. Each endured waves in popularity and persisted despite ebbs and flows. However, these patterns also expose the arbitrary nature of incorporating games into news products.
In each case, games are never meant to be the sole vehicle for relaying a story or comprehending the news.
If we feel like we can tell a story using a game we might do that. This chapter presents an overview of the rules for game usage in current newsrooms. Such use generally falls into two camps: In the first, producers de a particularly playful interactive feature for a specific piece of news; in the second, journalists employ stock formats, or specific reusable frameworks, for content. Deers also apply gamelike elements—from simple reward systems to full gameworld environments where players are fully immersed—to particular news stories.
Let the games begin and hopefully completed
The decision to make a playful or gamelike product often originates from the content itself. And people were shocked and surprised and excited about how accurate the quiz was. Features like these can bring attention to specific news events in unique and engaging ways, particularly when executed well. Content-driven de can also supplement coverage of major news events. Features are not without drawbacks, especially since they require investments of time, funds, and skills. In addition, audiences should be able to play features repeatedly.
On the other side of the spectrum are a variety of game templates and stock formats, which often require simple user and journalistic input. As a consequence, writers can publish quizzes without needing technical skills. These stock formats, whether deed in-house or with third-party software, are meant to accommodate multiple stories and content. They demand less initial time and effort from deers and can be released quickly.
The goal is to optimize the format to maximize audience response. Although stock formats cost little to assemble and deploy, publishers who want to build them may need news reporter games seat de-oriented developers in the newsroom.