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Brainstorming a (PRISM-)Newsgame

It is easy to discuss, critizise and condemn attempts to push things forward. The harder part is to actually produce stuff. That is why we at the Good Evil have set up our very first #Newsgamesweek. Our goal is to produce an actual working Newsgame. While doing that we want to reflect problems and insights.

So, how do you start producing a Newsgame? First you need a topic and a game-idea. And then you have to think about a crucial point: If Newsgames are supposed to serve the interests of journalism – how can you implement a game that plays out advantages over traditional ways of journalism?

I spent the entire weekend reading the papers, checking current topics, articles, etc. in order to find the right working point. There were two major required criteria for what i was looking for:

  • Relevance beyond the day and beyond region
  • Possibilities for a useful application of game mechanics at first glance

First finding: You do not open the newspaper, point to a random article and then decide to make a game out of it. Well, that basically was clear from the start. There is a vast variety of  forms of journalistic presentation. They should be chosen carfully. In the 21st century the topic defines the form. Not the other way round!

So when do you chose to implement a Newsgame?

When the usage of a game mechanic provides insights that you would not get while let´s say – reading a report. The Cutthroat Capitalism Example by Wired in 2009 (!) is still a good example how a game adds up to traditional ways of reporting: Putting a newsgame to the test. Earlier examples of games show that it is possible to use games in the context of news if you do not have actual source material (Osama) or as political comment ( September 12th). Journalism should embrace new modes of thinking about news that include such interactive resources:

Games have the huge advantage that they can provide an interactive experience. And it makes a huge difference if you read about the D-day or if you actually experience it.

Games are very good at providing insights into systems. While a well-written reportage might be best for immersive storytelling, a game like SimCity might teach you more about city planning in half an hour than a vast article.


Back to the  actual news flow. It was dominated by the complex and developing story of #Prism and the #NSA. The guardian has been the most precious source for information on the topic. If you are not into the whole thing read this Q&A first.

What is the scandal?

The US´s National Security Agency (NSA), its wiretapping agency, has been monitoring communications between the US and foreign nationals over the internet for a number of years, under a project called Prism.

What data is being monitored?

Potentially, everything. The PowerPoint slide about Prism says it can collect “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and another category called “special requests”.

Besides the many aspects of this unprecedented case of privacy and basic liberties destruction these questions struck me the most:

  • How does it work?
  • What does all this mean for the evolution of western societys in the 21st century?

The NSA is not saying how Prism works. The Guardian quotes a source that suggests, “they might have search interfaces (at an administrator level) into things like Facebook, and then when they find something of interest can request a data dump.“ Apart from that nobody knows how effective this has been. And the further outcomes are totally unclear as well.

From now on we will start working on a Prism-Newsgame that is – beyond others – being inspired by these postings:

Our idea

To come up with a playable proposal how PRISM looks and works on a desktop computer situated at the NSA Headquarter. We are pretty sure that the NSA -although still clinging to a Windows 95 look – embraces gamification to monitor and surveil internet users worldwide.



  1. Pingback: PRISM – the Game | Marcus Bösch

  2. Pingback: Programming a (PRISM-)Newsgame

  3. Pingback: Publishing A (PRISM-)Newsgame

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