Bildschirmfoto 2013-06-11 um 14.02.32
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Designing a Newsgame

The most important part of a game is its mechanic. The very best graphic design and a stunning soundtrack will not pay off if the core is flat or poorly executed. However a brilliant mechanic alone will not automatically make a fantastic game. There is an ongoing broad discussion what makes a good game. Actually nobody can foresee and nobody owns secret ingredients to cast a spell over raw game drafts.

The thing with Newsgames or games for purpose in general is that they are supposed to deliver more than just fun – which actually happens to be hard enough. The desirable outcome of Newsgames should be implanted into the game mechanic in order not to disturb the player but to get him while playing. Following the rule “Show don´t tell” the meaning of a game shall unfurl in the brain of the player.

Very few Newsgames are able to do that. Because it is very hard to achieve.  Many Newsgames just copy already existing game concepts. Because this is fairly easy. Actually we have done the deed. Why? Because it seemed to be the best option to accomplish a complete game in a short period of time. And the usage seemed to fairly fit the context.

My personal problem with a bunch of current Newsgames is that the game play very often remains rather static. I was wishing for a dynamic arcade-like game play in order to follow a rule by Marc Prensky: A good game-based learning experience should be so much fun, that people not interested in the whole topic would definitely want to play the game.

Maybe that is why Space Harrier came to my mind.

Why does this game make sense in the context of PRISM?

We want to enable the player to actually feel how the scanning of personal data works and what it means. Therefore it was necessary to abstract from the actual process. As much as we know algorithms scan large amounts of data automatically which then are evaluated, edited and presented to a human user. Nevertheless a human user was, is and will be part of the work. Strangers have the ultimate power to sniff about private details of every single person on the internet for the sake of a government-defined concept of security even though “the hard numbers on terrorism invalidate the current policies“.

While many people in the US and abroad seem to tolerate this approach we want to make a point in the debate over the balancing act between security and liberty. The opponents in our game are not killer frogs, flying dragons or aliens but  people like you and me. People with a bunch of secrets, dreams and desires that belong to them alone. Every time a single piece of data is scanned, privacy is violated for the sake of control.

Prism – the game can best be understood as political commentary in the tradition of Gonzalo Frasca´s September 12th. We will release a playable version soon even if it may not alter the Big Brother Fatigue

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  1. Pingback: Programming a (PRISM-)Newsgame

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