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You just can´t win with that newsgame stuff

Nora Pauls says that – just at around 2:54+x minutes. She is director of the Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the recipient of a 2007 Knight News Challenge grant to create a toolset for news simulation games. She has done “some eyetracking and usability research on different games that have been created for news organizations.” It is 2008. She speaks at the J-Lab’s “Playing the News” workshop prior to the 2008 Online News Association Convention.

You can still have a look at the schedule and here she is on Vimeo (other participants on the right),  read more about her research here.

Learn from the past

It is very interesting having a look at what has been done and said two years ago. As usual when it comes to web-stuff – everything looks really ‘old’ after some month. But that does not mean that it is not crucial. Learning from the past. Sounds simple. But nevertheless it is a rule that is ignored way to often by way too many people.

Chris Crawford recently made a very good point in a webinar he gave for us at the CGL. He said that flat interactivity tried out many many times by all kinds of media outlets has not been working at all during the last 20 years because it just has been tried out again and again and again by new people all the time. It seems as if no one really spent his or her time on analysing problems of already existing products before working on new ones.

An engaging, community driven experience

Eric Brown was at the “Playing the News” workshop 2008 as well. He was CEO of ImpactGames and he talked about PlaytheNewsGame.com – “an online interactive game uses real news footage and invites players to predict the outcome or events in the news and decide what they think should happen.” I presume that sounded like a great idea at that time. If you have a look at some of the results or the video-tutorial you get an impression why it did not really work out.

The reason is simple. The opposite of ‘good’ is ‘good intention’. PlaytheNewsGame sounds like a good idea. But it actually is not. I think the ‘game’ is not very immersive. You are not drawn into the game, instead you get background and contextual  information straight away and you are supposed “to beginn to immerse yourself”. I want to be immersed. That is the job of the game. Not the job of the player.

You shape the news – not!

I am pretty convinced that the actual player wants background and contextual information when needed. Time is precious on the web and the rest of the world is just a click away. Do not bore me with not necessary background information. I want it when i need it. First of all i want to know why to do what. Straight forward. Where is the problem. How to solve it. Start. Immerse me.

Another huge problem is the interactivity level. Choosing between three options is not very interactive. In fact adventures  in the good old days (see Kings Quest in 1984) were way more challenging. The gamemakers promise that “you shape the news / headlines of tomorrow”. That – of course – is not true at all. Why should i play a game about real world results when there is no outcome in the real world?

Conclusion 2010

ImpactGames sold the Play the News platform to Hybrid Learning Systems in summer 2010: “This is a bitter-sweet moment for us as a company as we were not able to maintain the necessary resources to see our vision through.” Like many others in the relatively new history of newsgames Eric Brown and co-founder Asi Burak moved on to work in the vast landscape of connected genres like serious games, learning games or whatsoever-games.

The key for better products must be the lucubration of already existing games from the past. It is the only chance not to redo mistakes already being made. I am pretty sure that another simple comparison between text and game – done by the Institute of New Media Studies here – will definitely not guide the way into a promising future. So i better continue reading Bogost´s book (Where are the journalists working on Newsgames that is what i ask myself at the moment) and try to sign up at Gameful. See you later.

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  1. Pingback: Playing the News with Eric Brown

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