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April 12 2012

04:54

'Digital Natives': Brands must step up creative game to hold their attention

What you need to know: Brian Steinberg mentions that "the study of consumer media habits was commissioned by Time Warner's's Time Inc. and conducted by Boston's Innerscope Research. Though it had only 30 participants ... ." 30? Anyway the study delivers some qualitative insights which might help to come up with hypothesis about consumers in their 20s ("digital natives").

AdAge :: It's every advertiser's worst nightmare: consumers so distracted by a dizzying array of media choices that they no longer notice the commercials supporting them. And its time might be closer than you think. A recent study found that consumers in their 20s ("digital natives") switch media venues about 27 times per nonworking hour—the equivalent of more than 13 times during a standard half-hour TV show.

Young consumers - Continue to read Brian Steinberg, adage.com

Tags: Gaming

August 03 2011

18:51

The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing

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"When people learn to play videogames," according to James Paul Gee, "they are learning a new literacy."

This is one of the reason kids love playing them: They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges. And one that feels more congruent with the nature and trajectory of today's world.

As our commerce and culture migrates further into this emerging digital ecosystem it becomes more critical that we develop digital literacy, of which videogames inhabit a large portion.

Gee, a linguist and professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University, thinks we should expand the traditional definition of literacy beyond reading and writing because language isn't the only communication system available in today's world. And there is no better example of a new form of media that communicates distinctive types of meaning than videogames.

The literacy of problem-solving

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Although games can be immensely entertaining, it would be a mistake to consider them as only a form of entertainment. Games are fun, but their real value lies in leveraging play and exploration as a mode of learning the literacy of problem-solving, which lowers the emotional stakes of failing.

In Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?, he reminds us that our educational system has stigmatized mistakes. As a result, kids are frightened of being wrong. Yet if we are not prepared to be wrong than we won't be able to come up with anything creative or solve complex problems. Videogames, on the other hand, embed trial and error into the foundation of gameplay.

Kids aren't naturally great at gaming the first time. They develop mastery through disciplined practice -- a path marked by dead-ends, wrong turns and blunders. Yet gamers aren't angst-ridden about making wrong decisions because games encourage a growth mindset. Mistakes are how one figures out what doesn't work and provides the impetus to zero in on what might.

Conversely, the game of modern education revolves around right and wrong answers. Now this kind of learning may be appropriate in some instances, say, when you want a student to remember the capitals of countries. That method is important, but it can only take you so far. It certainly can't penetrate more sophisticated, and I would argue, more important questions, such as: How does geography shape culture?

Games on the other hand, cultivate problem-solving, that, with that right kind of scaffolding, could begin to gain traction with these more exploratory questions and knowledge.

Focusing on the process, not the content

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Much of the critique leveled at videogames is oriented around their content. In Everything Bad Is Good For You, Steven Johnson writes of a hypothetical high school English teacher admonishing videogames' lack of content: "There's no psychological depth here, no moral quandaries, no poetry. And he'd be right! But comparing these games to 'The Iliad' or 'The Great Gatsby' or 'Hamlet' relies on a false premise: that the intelligence of these games lies in their content, in the themes and characters they represent."

Games are based on problems to solve, not content. This doesn't mean that game-based problem-solving should eclipse learning content, but I think we are increasingly seeing that a critical part of being literate in the digital age means being able to solve problems through simulations and collaboration.

Videogames, and the type of learning and thinking they generate, may serve as a cornerstone for education and economies of the future.

In their book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson state that "policymakers interested in preparing students for success in the 21st-century economy would do well ... to appreciate how skills developed through navigating virtual environments might pay off in the workplace ... [and how] the new skills and dispositions of the gamer generation will transform the workplace. The gamer generation will push for work environments to incorporate more virtual aspects in fields, such as market analysis, and social and economic modeling. Gamers, for example, have abundant experience making big decisions, coordinating resources, and experimenting with complex strategies in game-based simulations."

Making the most of gaming for your kids

Although videogames have great potential to be powerful vehicles for learning, there is no guarantee this will happen. Just as there is no guarantee that someone will understand the themes and symbols of "The Lord of the Flies" by simply reading it. As a result, kids need parents, teachers and their peers to engage their gaming in thoughtful ways. While there could be a long list of recommended practice, for simplicity sake I've reduced the list to three preliminary suggestions.

  1. Play games. Otherwise how can you have meaningful conversations about them? Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about "The Lord of the Flies" without having learned to read.
  2. Connect games to books, movies, TV and the world around them. By thinking about games beyond their boundaries we can cultivate pattern recognition across media platforms and parlay the problem-solving of gaming into the real world.
  3. Have your students or kids collaborate with other peers to analyze and interpret games, as well share strategies. There has been a raft of research in recent years that extols the wisdom of the crowd and the logic of the swarm. Through collaboration and networking kids can learn to enhance their own perspectives, ideas and, perhaps, contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read more in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of kids playing videogames by Sean Dreilinger on Flickr.

Aran Levasseur has an eclectic background that ranges from outdoor education to life coaching, and from habitat restoration to video production. For the last five years he's taught middle school history and science. From the beginning he's been integrating technology into his classes to enhance his teaching and student learning. He recently gave a talk at TEDxSFED on videogames and learning. Currently he's the Academic Technology Coordinator at San Francisco University High School.

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June 27 2011

18:00

Silicon Sisters Builds Videogames for Women by Women

The stereotypical videogame player is a young male under age 18, but study after study has shown that the majority of the game-playing population does not fall into that demographic. Only 18 percent of gamers are under age 18, and women over 18 represent a significantly greater proportion of this population (37 percent) than do boys age 17 or younger (13 percent).

With the explosive growth in social gaming, particularly on Facebook, more games are being targeted at women. Games like Farmville and Pet Society, while not explicitly aimed at women, have been embraced by an older, female gaming population.

But what about girls? Videogames are increasingly considered an important tool for learning. And even though plenty of women do play videogames, there is still a sense -- particularly among girls -- that games are a "boy thing."

Building Games for Women, Girls

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That girl-gamer audience is the focus of the Vancouver, B.C.-based gaming studio Silicon Sisters. The first female-owned and run videogame studio in Canada, Silicon Sisters is committed to building games for women and girls by women and girls.

Founded by former Radical Entertainment executive producer Kristen Forbes and former Deep Fried Entertainment COO Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch, the studio released its very first game, School 26, to critical acclaim back in April. (We featured the game in an April round-up of the best new educational apps of the month.) The studio plans to release its next School 26 game -- Summer of Secrets -- next month.

The School 26 games are geared toward tweens and teens, and the storyline is built around the very complicated social hierarchy of high school. You play the game as a young girl who's a newcomer to a school. She comes from a nomadic family, which has made it difficult for her to maintain long-term friendships. As she enrolls in this, her 26th school, she strikes a bargain with her parents: If she can make friends, they'll stay put.

So the player of School 26 must help the character do just that: build friendships and navigate the sticky, awkward and sometimes awful moral dilemmas of school. These range from power struggles to peer pressure, romance, betrayal, alienation, acceptance -- all real and relevant situations that girls face every day.

The player must select appropriate emotional responses to certain scenarios and answer quizzes that provide insights into players' personalities. The emphasis here is on empathy and networking.

All talk, no action

That's a very different set of goals and behaviors than what most videogames encourage. There isn't swordplay here. No princesses to rescue. No alien invaders to vanquish. There isn't “action.” There's “talk.” The rewards aren't cash or weaponry. The skills honed in School 26 aren't the ability to time your jumps or dodge bullets or land killing blows. Of course, there are plenty of casual games aimed at tweens that aren't action-oriented, and there are lots aimed at girls. But unlike many games that target this girl market, there is no emphasis on shopping, fashion or beauty in School 26.

The Silicon Sisters say all their games will emphasize this sort of “social engineering” — an emphasis on relationships and communication. These are important skills for girls and women to develop, the studio argues, and will allow them to navigate the sometimes treacherous social situations.

As the female gaming population grows, it's likely that more companies will begin to cater to this market. But as it stands, there still aren't a lot of games that meet women and girl gamers' needs. A recent report by the entertainment market research firm Interpret, titled "Games and Girls: Video Gaming's Ignored Audience," argues that the female gaming market is far more nuanced than some of the “casual-centric reputation” suggests. Indeed, 44 percent of those who responded to the survey say that they prefer genres other than exercise, music, and casual games -- the kind that are most often marketed to women and girls.

But making games for girls isn't simply about providing good entertainment. Some of girls' reluctance to play videogames may have other repercussions: a lack of familiarity with or comfort around technology, for example, and a missed opportunity to learn more about science, technology and engineering.

Audrey Watters is an education technology writer, rabble-rouser, and folklorist. She writes for MindShift, O'Reilly Radar, Hack Education, and ReadWriteWeb.

mindshift-logo-100x100.pngThis post originally appeared on KQED's MindShift, which explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education. Follow MindShift on Twitter @mindshiftKQED and on Facebook.

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February 02 2011

18:07

Why Huffington Post's 'Predict the News' Game Is No Galaga

Fellow Knight News Challenge winner Chris O'Brien recently posted on this site about "gamifying" the news. The idea behind the  movement O'Brien is speaking of, which Brad Flora touched on in another recent Idea Lab post, involves adding incentives -- pop-up achievements for tasks completed, progress bars to fill, badges to display, online leaderboards for score comparison, and virtual goods -- to activities. The idea is to reward repeat patronage and reframe participation as if it's like a playing a game.

A Brief History of Videogame Scoring

Videogames have long used scores to track player performance. In 1976, Sea Wolf took cues from pinball tables and added score keeping and a high score to incentivize multiple plays. The wildly successful Space Invaders (1978) helped popularize this method of recording expertise all over the country. Exidy's Star Fire (1979) took this one step forward and added the ability for players to enter their initials to link a high score with a name. The high score gave players both a measurable goal to strive for and a point of performance comparison.

Achieving a good score in a game was not just a measure of how long a play session lasted, as it was possible to more efficiently earn points through various strategies. And because there were no "continues," a high score wasn't a measure of how many quarters were spent to participate. A good score measured understanding.

Earning a good score in Galaga is dependent upon a number of factors. A enemy diving from the formation is worth more than a stationary enemy. A diving Boss Galaga ship with two escorts is worth twice as much as with one escort. A player who has their fighter purposely captured by the tractor beam of a Boss Galaga and successfully frees it can play with two ships on screen side-by-side, doubling firepower. Having double firepower, however, means doubling the area of potential collisions with enemy ships. Racking up points in Galaga requires the player understand the rules that determine how the game is scored.

Now imagine a game like Galaga or Space Invaders with rows of enemies at the top of the screen and a space ship at the bottom firing up. Except that in this hypothetical game, the enemies don't move. Each successfully destroyed ship earns 100 points and there is no time limit. The High Score at the top center of the screen reads 30,000. Let's say that each enemy takes on average two seconds to kill. All that is required to get the high score in this game is to play for ten minutes (30,000/100 = 300 ships at 2 seconds each). It has all the trappings of a game -- buttons, a joystick, spaceship, alien forces, and a high score -- but it asks nothing of you but participation.

Gaming The News

A few months ago the Huffington Post launched a self-described "social news service" called Predict the News. As you can guess from the name, the Huffington Post's polls are centered on sharing predictions such as, "Will Sarah Palin run for president in 2012?" To play, users sign up for an account or log in with a service like Facebook, Twitter, or Google, and respond to a question accompanying an article. Most questions are either yes or no responses like the above, or they involve selecting an option from a list of known outcomes. Points are awarded after the event has passed.

When ImpactGames launched Play the News, a prediction game we discuss at length in the Platforms chapter of Newsgames: Journalism at Play, they set out to make the act of playing informative. Making a prediction was not about choosing what kind of dress Kate Middleton would wear; it was about considering the outcomes of complex situations based on stakeholders. The game rewarded extended research and awarded points based on analytical thinking. After all, it's much harder to guess the outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian conflict than if Apple will release a new iPad in Q1 2011.

The difference between these two prediction games should be apparent. Though they both reward players with points to be shared on an online leaderboard, Play the News addresses complex issues and getting its "high score" is based on understanding. Predict the News asks for participation and getting the "high score" is more luck than skill. Play the News is like Galaga, while Predict the News is like our hypothetical everybody-wins space shooter.

Thinking about how to use so-called game mechanics to drive user engagement is part of the business side of a news organization. But the business shouldn't drive journalism -- journalism should drive the business. Helping readers, viewers, listeners, and players understand the news should be the goal of journalism. There is nothing inherently wrong with incentivizing news reading with a scoring mechanism, but we should take care to keep journalistic values in mind when building the future apparatus of news.

December 30 2010

01:00

I have found the cognitive surplus, and it hates pigs

2008: Clay Shirky, outlining the basic idea that would become his book Cognitive Surplus:

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project — every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in — that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus.

2010: Hillel Fuld, citing data from Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio, the Finnish company behind the hit game Angry Birds:

Another mind boggling statistic about Angry Birds, and you should sit down for this one, is that there are 200 million minutes played a day on a global scale. As Peter put it, that number compares favorably to anything, including prime time TV, which indicates that 2011 will be a big year in the shift of advertisers’ attention from TV to mobile.

Some math: 200 million minutes a day / 60 minutes per hour * 365 days per year = 1.2 billion hours a year spent playing Angry Birds.

Or, if Shirky’s estimate is in the right ballpark, about one Wikipedia’s worth of time every month.

Just a lighthearted reminder that, even if the lure of the connected digital world gets people to skimp on the Gilligan’s Island reruns, that doesn’t necessarily mean their replacement behaviors will be any more productive. They could instead bring an ever greater capacity for distraction and disengagement and slingshot precision.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple more levels to get three stars on.

[Aside: Note that Angry Birds still has a long way to go to catch up to television: 200 billion hours a year vs. 1.2 billion hours. And the TV number is U.S. only, while the Angry Birds one is global.]

December 16 2010

18:14

Going beyond the story: journalism, storytelling and computer games

The final session of news:rewired  - which was focused on the place of game play in journalism – was the one that, more than any other, got “beyond the story”.

In an earlier session, Alex Wood, Molly Flatt and others had talked about storytelling being a key skill for journalists. But for interactive producer Philip Trippenbach, storytelling is only one tool in a journalist’s arsenal. He said that non-narrative forms can often be a more effective way of disseminating news in some cases.

For example, climate change. Climate change is not a story, Trippenbach said. Neither is the financial crisis or coalition politics. These “systems” suit non-narrative forms. But, he added, when reporting the effects of these systems on people and communities, storytelling might be more appropriate than non-narrative means.

In a nutshell – stories must be microcosms, localised and personalised, but the best way to understand how wider systems work is by playing with them, Trippenbach said.

A practical example of this in the session was Scoop! a role playing game about newsgathering in which teams of newshounds chased fictional politicians during a mock general election. Alex Fleetwood, of social gaming maker Hide&Seek, said that Scoop helps people understand “the games” of media and politics by allowing them to take on role of the journalist or politician.

“As a journalist, the importance of stories and narrative has always been drummed into me. It was interesting to see a different approach to explaining data and systems,” he said.

See a liveblog of the entire session from Wannabe Hacks at this link.

You can find video footage from the day on this site and on BBC College of Journalism YouTube channel. Check back to this post for footage of this session.

November 30 2010

15:00

Making social gaming scale: Lessons from the Democrat and Chronicle’s adoption of alternate reality

Just over a year ago, Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle launched an ambitious Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called Picture the Impossible. The seven-week game was a collaboration with the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and it built web, print, and real-life challenges over a fictional storyline designed to connect players with with Rochester’s history. Participants were divided into three teams that competed against each other to earn money for three local charities. The players completed a scavenger hunt in a local cemetery, created recipes for a cooking contest focused on local ingredients, and earned points each week for both web-based games like jigsaw puzzles and print newspaper challenges like assembling a mystery photo. The game concluded with a Halloween costume party for the top players.

Over 2,500 people signed up for the game in all, and it attracted a highly engaged core of about 600 people, including members of the young professional demographic that the Democrat and Chronicle had been most hoping to attract. But running an ARG was also very resource-intensive. I talked with Traci Bauer, the Democrat and Chronicle’s managing editor for content and digital platforms, about what the paper learned from Picture the Impossible, and how they are building social gaming into the paper’s day-to-day operations.

Picture the Impossible emerged through a collaboration between Bauer and RIT professor Elizabeth Lane Lawley. It was funded through sweat equity from both organizations and a donation from a local charity and Microsoft Bing. (Kodak, which is based in Rochester, provided cameras and printers as weekly prizes.)

The game attracted players of all ages, including families, students brought in through RIT, and plenty of Baby Boomers. (“They’re easy,” Bauer said. “Boomers do everything.”) Two-thirds of the players were women. The most important strengths of the game were the collaborative team structure and the focus on earning money for charity. Team spirit was high on the message boards for the three different “factions,” and players strategized ways to maximize their weekly point totals. The scavenger hunts and real-life games (some powered by the text-messaging/smartphone app SCVNGR) were popular, as was the cooking competition, which brought in 104 entrants. When I spoke with Bauer and Lawley last year, they had also been very excited about the way the game used the print paper as a physical element of play.

Bauer said the newspaper had learned enough from the collaboration that the experiment would have been worthwhile even if the game flopped. It didn’t.

“The beauty of it wasn’t in the volume of players, but in the amount of time that they spent in the game,” Bauer said. “In the end we had 62 minutes on-site per unique, and that’s compared to 30-35 minutes on our core sites.”

Bauer came out of the project believing that the news industry needs to harness gaming strategies. “There’s something in there, for sure,” she said.

Her goal is for the Democrat and Chronicle to always have some kind of social gaming presence. When Picture the Impossible closed last Halloween, “I wanted to quickly get another initiative out there,” Bauer said. “I hate when you build something and it’s a success and you put it up on a shelf and don’t pay attention to it for years.”

The problem was that Picture the Impossible had taken a huge amount of time and resources. The newspaper’s collaboration with RIT had ended, and the pressures of making social gaming a normal part of newspaper operations meant figuring out a more pared-down, sustainable model.

For the Democrat and Chronicle, that has meant abandoning the Alternate Reality Game model, with its fictional storyline that united the different elements of the game and propelled it forward. As a news organization, Bauer said, creating fictional scenarios didn’t really fit with their mission. It also meant fewer real-life challenges, even though they were very popular with players. RIT had been “instrumental” in making those in-person activities work. “It’s not what we’re really good at, organizing baking contests and things like that,” Bauer said. “It wasn’t what we’re about.”

This time around, the Democrat and Chronicle’s new social gaming project, score!, is focused around one of the newspaper’s core activities: political coverage. Launched in June, score! focuses on the November elections, and consists mainly of politically-themed web games and quizzes. One new game, Headline Hopper, has players propel little politicians through a landscape of quotes, Mario Brothers-style.

As in Picture the Impossible, players accumulate points and earn money for charity, and the profiles of score! players note whether they participated in Picture the Impossible, to build continuity between the two games.

This time, Bauer said, they thought the team loyalty that had powered Picture the Impossible would be formed around political parties, the Democrats competing with the Republicans. But that team structure flopped when only four Republicans signed up. As a result, Bauer said, they’ve mostly abandoned the team focus. The in-person component of score! has also been scaled back; players can get “stalker” points for snapping photographs of politicians at local events, but Bauer said the challenge hasn’t really taken off. Part of the problem is that candidates are unpredictable, so it’s hard to get information about possible stalker events until the very last minute.

The election focus has been one of the strengths of score!, in part because it gives the game a natural theme that’s easy to build content around, and in part because the games build on the status that comes along with being well-informed about politics — and with having other people know that you are.

“In the forums they talk about how much they’ve learned about the election, and how they feel like smarter voters because of it,” Bauer said.

Players now need to log in to the game through Facebook, which has generated about a dozen complaints from people who can’t play — not enough to be a real concern. And the benefit of the Facebook platform is that it allows players to compare their scores with friends.

Like Picture the Impossible, Bauer said that the 2,300 score! players fall into three tiers: a smaller group of 250 hardcore players, a middle tier of casual players, and then the remainder — who scored a few points and then didn’t come back.

“That’s really our target, is the causal player,” Bauer said.

One of the biggest challenges of running games when you’re not a full-time gaming company is negotiating the relationship with the hardcore players versus the larger group of more casual ones. The most devoted players are also the ones who post the most complaints on forums and Facebook. “We have to keep reminding each other as a team [that] this is an initiative that is going to be constant on our site, and we can’t wear ourselves out catering to five people,” Bauer said.

At the same time, those small number of hardcore players are responsible for a lot of the games’ energy. “That’s where the conundrum is,” Bauer said. “We owe all of our success to those kinds of people.”

When score! ends, Bauer will evaluate the game’s analytics to see which parts of it generated enough engagement to make the time invested in it worthwhile, and continue to think about how to automate parts of the game to make it more sustainable. The next game will debut sometime early in the winter, Bauer said, and it may involve competition between players in Rochester and other cities.

So far, the Democrat and Chronicle is the only Gannett paper to implement a major gaming initiative, Bauer said. She said this was disappointing, but not surprising, since the success of Picture the Impossible didn’t translate into a bump in revenue. (Unlike Picture the Impossible, score! has advertising on its site.) As much as she believes in making social gaming part of a newspaper’s toolbox, Bauer said, “it certainly doesn’t produce a lot of revenue, and until it does, it’s not going to get a lot of attention.”

November 17 2010

15:00

The Magic 8 Ball of News: The Future-Jobs-O-Matic

American Public Media has built a better Magic 8 Ball. Okay, not exactly, but it’s just as fun to shake things up on the Future-Jobs-O-Matic game and find out your destiny. And better than the 8 Ball, it’ll tell you what your salary will be.

Released by the team at public radio’s Marketplace, the Future-Jobs-O-Matic is a game-ified (or maybe app-ified) way of breaking out data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically they’re breaking down the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the guide released every two years by the bureau outlining the jobs and industries that are expected to grow.

The guide is already available and searchable online (or in paperback, weighing in at more than 800 pages). But the team at Marketplace figured they could make the information more accessible — and maybe even fun — for their audience.

Taking a spin on the Future Jobs-O-Matic is as easy and familiar as picking a flight on a travel website. You start with a career field, ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to transportation and professional, and narrow it down to specific occupations and ultimately your Job of The Future.

Going several steps better than a high school guidance counselor, the Future Jobs-O-Matic provides a competitive outlook — will your field grow or shrink? — the change in job numbers over a decade, and the median income for 2010.

(The outlook for reporter? “News tip: Keep your eyes open.” For an author/writer/editor? “The internet could be your best chance.” For a network administrator? “Your future is bright. Really bright.”)

I emailed Adriene Hill, a multimedia reporter working on sustainability issues at Marketplace who worked on the project. She said displaying the labor data as an interactive feature gives the audience a better way of understanding information than a more straightforward story.

“We wanted users to engage with the information — to play with it,” she wrote.

The release of the game was timed to coincide with the fall election, as jobs were expected to be a big issue. But with Marketplace’s broader economic focus, the game fits into their continuing coverage on the recession. Hill told me it took around a month to develop and package the game, and similar to most data journalism, one of the larger tasks was figuring out what information was important to the public.

Hill said the game serves a basic function of helping people consider potential jobs, but also provide perspective on the economy. The editorial goals of the game, Hill said, were to examine future jobs, identify trends causing changes, and to “show that some of these changes in the labor market are unrelated to the claims and promises of politicians.”

American Public Media has a history with news games, having previously released Consumer Consequences, which shows the impact of society’s consumption habits on the environment, and Budget Hero, where players could try their hand at spending and cutting the federal budget. Hill said news games need to go beyond just good design and user experience — they need to fulfill the standard of news. “It also needs to meet some need the audience has. In our case, we wanted something simple that would be fast to produce and look at serious, long-term trends (trends that actually are depressing in some cases) and present them in a fun way,” she wrote.

July 07 2010

19:51

How Immersive Journalism, Games Can Increase Engagement

The average reader spends 25 minutes a day reading the newspaper, while the average online user spends 70 seconds a day on a news site, according to data from Hal Varian, Google's chief economist. (JD Lasica has more on this presentation.)

As a journalist, I'm not satisfied when people just scan my headline and then move on. As a citizen who also wants to discuss certain developments in the world, I would like to participate in online venues where people have an attention span longer than 70 seconds.

Of course, enticing people to hang out longer on your site or blog has financial value, as advertisers value that kind of engagement. In this post, I'll suggest a few ways to encourage people to interact for a longer duration and with a higher level of engagement. I'll start out with a few fairly traditional ways to achieve this, and end with a new approach: immersive journalism.

Five Ways to Increase Engagement

1. Provide context. One interesting experiment is Google's Living Stories. This model helps provide context to news articles, which increases how much people understand the topic and better engages them. Matt Thompson, one of the participants in the Future of Context panel at this year's South by Southwest interactive conference expressed the importance of context this way:

Hundreds of headlines wash over us every day. And part of why many of us engage in this flow is because we have faith that over time, this torrent of episodic knowledge is going to cohere into something more significant: a framework for genuinely understanding an issue. And we live with it 'cause it sort of works. Eventually you hear enough buzzwords like "single-payer" and "public option" and you start to feel like you can play along.

But mounting evidence indicates that this approach to information is actually totally debilitating. Faced with a flood of headlines on an ever-increasing variety of topics, we shut off. We turn to news that doesn't require much understanding -- crime, traffic, weather -- or we turn off the news altogether.

It doesn't require any new kind of design or technology to provide context -- giving background information or providing links to relevant material is a good start.

2. Ask people for their take. In other words, don't just write another article; try to create and foster a conversation. People are more likely to be engaged if they have an opportunity to become part of the process, to share their views and knowledge.

3. Live-stream your newsroom. I covered this idea in a previous post for MediaShift. This is a way to open up and let people get an inside look at how things work. It could spark their interest.

4. Use video. Video-sharing services are a great resource, and video itself is hugely popular online. Don't be afraid to use smartphones, Flip cameras and other quick-and-dirty ways of shooting video. Do it as long as it helps to tell your story and moves people to interact. Also invite people to send in their video footage.

5. Use video collaboratively. Have a look at Stroome, a collaborative video editing platform with great potential for community journalism projects.

The Future

This may prove to be the more controversial part of my post. It's about how journalists and bloggers can use the rapidly growing ecosystem of virtual objects, casual games, games on social networks and virtual environments to increase engagement.
This is what some call "immersive journalism." I also think that augmented reality presents many opportunities for increasing engagement.

DeLaPena_163p.ashx.jpg

Nonny de la Peña, a senior research fellow focused on immersive journalism at USC Annenberg, is one of the people leading the way in this field. In this context, immersive journalism is a novel way to utilize gaming platforms and virtual environments to convey news and non-fiction stories.

It's a bit hard to explain, so let me show it in action using a video. The below video is about the Cap & Trade immersive journalism project, a collaboration with the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and the Center For Investigative Reporting, and is based on the PBS Frontline World story Carbon Watch. This machinima showcases the proof-of-concept Second Life experience:

De la Peña uses other techniques for immersive journalism. There was a game about Darfur and a PC game about John Kerry's Swiftboat battles, all of which are showcased on ImmersiveJournalism.com. It's a great place to learn more about this concept, and to see what's possible with it.

In terms of augmented reality, a company such as Layar provides a platform where you can build layers of digital information and then superimpose them on a physical reality using a mobile phone. It can also be combined with location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla.

Using this kind of platform, you could superimpose facts and narratives on structures and places within a neighborhood, and invite your community to add their own comments and notations. You could create location-based games using reporting and other information. You can even have your layer behind a pay wall (for those who find that of interest).

Challenges and Opportunities

The possibilities are seemingly limitless, but it's difficult to know where to start, and what to watch out for. As much as I'm thrilled by augmented reality, gaming applications and virtual environments, I'm also aware of the dangers. Here are ten points to reflect upon before and while engaging in these new media from a news perspective.

  1. Keep a close eye on costs and benefits. Realize that virtual environments are, at least for adults, a niche activity. People in general don't like to download stuff and to go through technical hassles.
  2. Ask and answer some basic questions. Who are your community members? Is access to wireless broadband Internet ubiquitous? Do they have sophisticated smartphones? Your strategy will depend on the answers to these and other questions.
  3. Choose your game format wisely. Developing even a simple game is time-consuming, and not every game will be appreciated by your community. An article by Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansen in Nieman Reports about news-focused game playing reports on the results of their tests of different approaches. This is essential reading for anyone thinking of building a news game.
  4. Look for collaborative platforms. Try to get help from educational institutions, for example, or others in the community. It's not just about you and your organization.
  5. Don't forget that the developers of your new media experiment need guidance. You have to provide facts and you should be able to help create storyboards and deliver a philosophy and goals for the project.
  6. Don't hesitate to use relatively low-tech solutions. Developing a full-fledged game can be expensive. Maybe a Flash-based game is okay as well (sorry Steve Jobs!). Or even organizing a quiz or a scavenger-hunt related to the kind of news you're covering could be an interesting way to animate your community.
  7. If you're not a gamer, familiarize yourself with games and virtual environments. There are lessons to be learned. For instance, did you ever think about the use of audio in the context of a game?
  8. If you start exploring games and virtual environments, you will soon find out that there are very different approaches. In some games participants follow a relatively set rule structure. Other games or environments offer a framework, a theme, and people are encouraged to respond by telling their own stories.
  9. Capture your experiments on video so you have something to show the people who chose not to participate. (And those who did participate should of course be asked for feedback.)
  10. Don't forget your ethics and best practices. These should be part of your development and execution.

*****

If you're already trying any of these strategies to increase the attention span and the engagement of your community, I'd love to hear about it. What challenges and opportunities do you see? How can we practice "affordable immersive journalism"?

Roland Legrand is in charge of Internet and new media at Mediafin, the publisher of leading Belgian business newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo. He studied applied economics and philosophy. After a brief teaching experience, he became a financial journalist working for the Belgian wire service Belga and subsequently for Mediafin. He works in Brussels, and lives in Antwerp with his wife Liesbeth.

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June 16 2010

18:30

Announcing the 2010 Knight News Challenge winners: Visuals are hot, and businesses are big winners

They started out last year as a crowded field of hopefuls from around the world, each dreaming of a chance to perform under the big lights. Over months, their numbers dwindled as the level of competition rose; each successive round brought new disappointment to those eliminated and new hope to those left in the running. And now, whittled down to an elite few, they’re ready for the global stage.

Okay, I’m giving myself a yellow card: So maybe the World Cup isn’t the perfect metaphor for the Knight News Challenge. But the News Challenge is the closest thing the future-of-news space has to a World Cup, and while this year’s 12 winners — just announced at MIT — won’t be forced to battle each other for global supremacy, they do represent the top of a sizable pyramid of applicants — nearly 2,500 in all. You can judge for yourself which ones are Brazil and Germany and which are New Zealand and North Korea.

I’ve got information on all the winners below, but first a few observations:

Visuals seem to be this year’s theme: lots of projects about things like mapping, data visualization, video editing, and games inspired by editorial cartoons. Just one winner focuses on the business-model end of the equation (Windy Citizen’s real-time ads).

— This year’s new grants total $2.74 million. That’s up from last year’s total of $1.96 million, but still down substantially from the really big checks Knight was writing in the first two years of the News Challenge ($11.7 million in 2007, $5.5 million in 2008). The number of grantees is also up a bit from 2009 but well below earlier years (26 in 2007, 16 in 2008, 9 in 2009, 12 this year).

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Knight’s overall commitment has decreased over time. Many of its grants are distributed over multiple years, so some of those early commitments are still being in force.

— Despite extending this cycle’s application deadline in part to encourage more international applicants, the winners are quite domestic — 11 American winners out of 12. In 2008, there were six international winners, and last year there were two projects that, while technically based in the U.S., were internationally focused — Ushahidi and Mobile Media Toolkit. (You could argue that this year’s One-Eight should count as international, since it’s about covering Afghanistan, but through collaboration with the U.S. military. And while Tilemapping will focus on Washington, D.C., a version of its software was used after the Haiti earthquake.)

That said, the deadline extension was also about reaching out for other kinds of diversity, and that happened in at least one way: Knight reports that nearly half of this year’s winners are private companies, up from 15 percent in 2009. That’s despite Knight’s elimination of a separate category for commercial applicants last cycle.

Below are all the winners — congratulations to one and all, and my sympathies to the thousands eliminated along the way. In the coming days, we’ll have profiles of all of the winners and their projects. In the meantime, for context, you can also read all we wrote about last year’s News Challenge and what we’ve written so far about this cycle.

CityTracking

The winner: Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen Design

The amount: $400,000

The pitch: “To make municipal data easy to understand, CityTracking will allow users to create embeddable data visualizations that are appealing enough to spread virally and that are as easy to share as photos and videos. The dynamic interfaces will be appropriate to each data type, starting with crime and working through 311 calls for service, among others. The creators will use high design standards, making the visuals beautiful as well as useful.”

The Cartoonist

The winner: Ian Bogost of Georgia Tech and Michael Mateas of UC Santa Cruz

The amount: $378,000

The pitch: “To engage readers in the news, this project will create a free tool that produces cartoon-like current event games — the game equivalent of editorial cartoons. The simplified tools will be created with busy journalists and editors in mind, people who have the pulse of their community but don’t have a background in game development. By answering a series of questions about the major actors in a news event and making value judgments about their actions, The Cartoonist will automatically propose game rules and images. The games aim to help the sites draw readers and inspire them to explore the news.”

Local Wiki

The winner: Philip Neustrom and Mike Ivanov of DavisWiki.org

The amount: $350,000

The pitch: “Based on the successful DavisWiki.org in Davis, Calif., this project will create enhanced tools for local wikis, a new form of media that makes it easy for people to learn and share their own unique community knowledge. Members will be able to post articles about anything they like, edit others and upload photos and files. This grant will help create the specialized open-source software that makes the wiki possible and help communities develop, launch and sustain local wiki projects.”

WindyCitizen’s Real Time Ads

The winner: Brad Flora of WindyCitizen.com

The amount: $250,000

The pitch: “As a way to help online startups become sustainable, this project will develop an improved software interface to help sites create and sell what are known as real-time ads. These ads are designed to be engaging as they constantly change showing the latest message or post from the advertisers Twitter account, Facebook page or blog. Challenge winner Brad Flora helped pioneer the idea on his Chicago news site, WindyCitizen.com.”

GoMap Riga

The winner: Marcis Rubenis and Kristofs Blaus

The amount: $250,000

The pitch: “To inspire people to get involved in their community, this project will create a live, online map with local news and activities. GoMap Riga will pull some content from the Web and place it automatically on the map. Residents will be able to add their own news, pictures and videos while discussing what is happening around them. GoMap Riga will be integrated with the major existing social networks and allow civic participation through mobile technology. The project will be tested in Riga, Latvia, and ultimately be applicable in other cities.”

Order in the Court 2.0

The winner: John Davidow of WBUR

The amount: $250,000

The pitch: “To foster greater access to the judicial process, this project will create a laboratory in a Boston courtroom to help establish best practices for digital coverage that can be replicated and adopted throughout the nation. While the legislative and executive branches have incorporated new technologies and social media, the courts still operate under the video and audio recording standards established in the 1970s and ’80s. The courtroom will have a designated area for live blogging via a Wi-Fi network and the ability to live-stream court proceedings to the public. Working in conjunction with the Massachusetts court system, the project will publish the daily docket on the Web and build a knowledge wiki for the public with common legal terms.”

Porch Forum

The winner: Michael Wood-Lewis of Front Porch Forum

The amount: $220,000

The pitch: “To help residents connect with others and their community, this grant will help rebuild and enhance a successful community news site, expand it to more towns and release the software so other organizations, anywhere can use it. The Front Porch Forum, a virtual town hall space, helps residents share and discuss local news, build community and increase engagement. The site, currently serving 25 Vermont towns, will expand to 250.”

One-Eight

The winner: Teru Kuwayama

The amount: $202,000

The pitch: “Broadening the perspectives that surround U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, this project will chronicle a battalion by combining reporting from embedded journalists with user-generated content from the Marines themselves. The troops, recently authorized to use social media while deployed, and their families will be key audiences for the online journal steering, challenging and augmenting the coverage with their feedback. The approach will directly serve the stakeholders and inform the wider public by bringing in on-the-ground views on military issues and the execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

Stroome

The winner: USC Annenberg’s Nonny de la Peña and Tom Grasty

The amount: $200,000

The pitch: “To simplify the production of news video, Stroome will create a virtual video-editing studio. There, correspondents, editors and producers will be able to upload and share content, edit and remix with friends and colleagues — all without using expensive satellite truck technology. The site will launch as eyewitness video — often captured by mobile phones or webcams — is becoming a key component of news coverage, generating demand for supporting tools.”

CitySeed

The winner: Arizona State’s Retha Hill and Cody Shotwell

The amount: $90,000

The pitch: “To inform and engage communities, CitySeed will be a mobile application that allows users to plant the ’seed’ of an idea and share it with others. For example, a person might come across a great spot for a community garden. At that moment, the person can use the CitySeed app to geotag the idea, which links it to an exact location. Others can look at the place-based ideas, debate and hopefully act on them. The project aims to increase the number of people informed about and engaged with their communities by breaking down community issues into bite-size settings.”

StoryMarket

The winner: Jake Shapiro of PRX

The amount: $75,000

The pitch: “Building on the software created by 2008 challenge winner Spot.us, this project will allow anyone to pitch and help pay to produce a story for a local public radio station. When the amount is raised (in small contributions), the station will hire a professional journalist to do the report. The project provides a new way for public radio stations to raise money, produce more local content and engage listeners.”

Tilemapping

The winner: Eric Gundersen of Development Seed

The amount: $74,000

The pitch: “To inspire residents to learn about local issues, Tilemapping will help local media create hyper-local, data-filled maps for their websites and blogs. Journalists will be able to tell more textured stories, while residents will be able to draw connections to their physical communities in new ways. The tools will be tested in Washington, D.C. Ushahidi, a 2009 Knight News Challenge winner, used a prototype after the earthquake in Haiti to create maps used to crowdsource reports on places needing aid.”

March 19 2010

15:00

This Week in Review: Loads of SXSW ideas, Pew’s state of the news, and a dire picture of local TV news

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

A raft of ideas at SXSW: The center of the journalism-and-tech world this week has been Austin, Texas, site of the annual conference South by Southwest. The part we’re most concerned about — SXSW Interactive — ran from last Friday to Tuesday. The New York Times’ David Carr gives us a good feel for the atmosphere, and Poynter’s Steve Myers asked 15 journalists what they took away from SXSW, and it makes for a good roundup. A handful of sessions there grabbed the attention of a lot of the journalism thinkers on the web, and I’ll try to take you on a semi-quick tour:

— We saw some conversation last week leading up to Matt Thompson’s panel on “The Future of Context,” and that discussion continued throughout this week. We had some great description of the session, between Steve Myers’ live blog and Elise Hu’s more narrative summary. As Hu explains, Thompson and his fellow panelists, NYU prof Jay Rosen and Apture founder Tristan Harris, looked at why much of our news lacks context, why our way of producing news doesn’t make sense (we’re still working with old values in a new ecosystem), and how we go about adding context to a largely episodic news system.

Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center echoes the panelists’ concerns, and Lehigh prof Jeremy Littau pushes the concept further, connecting it with social gaming. Littau doesn’t buy the idea that Americans don’t have time for news, since they obviously have plenty of time for games that center on collecting things, like Facebook’s Farmville. He’d like to see news organizations try to provide that missing context in a game environment, with the gamer’s choices informed by “blasts of information, ideally pulled from well reported news stories, that the user can actually apply to the situation in a way that increases both recall and understanding.”

— NYU’s web culture guru, Clay Shirky, gave a lecture on the value that can be squeezed out of public sharing. Matt Thompson has a wonderful live blog of the hourlong session, and Liz Gannes of GigaOM has a solid summary, complete with a few of the made-for-Twitter soundbites Shirky has a knack for, like “Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does,” and “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

Once again, Jeremy Littau pulls Shirky’s ideas together and hones in on their implications for journalism in a thoughtful post, concluding that while the future of journalism is bright, its traditional players are clueless. “I just don’t see a future for them when they’re trying to protect information as a scarce commodity,” he writes. “The scarcity, in truth, is in media companies trying to create civic goods via user sharing.”

danah boyd, who studies social media and youth culture for Microsoft Research, gave a well-received talk on privacy and publicity online. It doesn’t have much to do directly with journalism, but it’s a brilliant, insightful glimpse into how web culture works. Here’s a rough crib of the talk from boyd, and a summary from TechCrunch. There’s a bunch of cool nuggets in there, like boyd’s description of the “inversion of defaults” in privacy and publicity online. Historically, conversations were private by default and public by effort, but conversations online have become public by default and private by effort.

— One of the big journalism-related stories from SXSW has been AOL and Seed’s efforts to employ a not-so-small army of freelancers to cover each of the 2,000 or so bands at the festival. The Daily Beast has the best summary of the project and its goals, and TechCrunch talks about it with former New York Times writer Saul Hansell, who’s directing the effort. Silicon Alley Insider noted midweek that they wouldn’t reach the goal of 2,000 interviews.

One of the big questions about AOL and Seed’s effort is whether they’re simply creating another kind of “content mill” that many corners of the web have been decrying over the past few months. Music writer Leor Galil criticized it as crass, complaining of the poor quality of some of the interviews: “AOL is shelling out cash and providing great space for potentially terrible content.” David Cohn of Spot.Us compared AOL to the most notorious content farm, Demand Media, concluding that journalists shouldn’t be worried about them exploiting writers, but should be worried about their threat to the journalism industry as a whole.

— One other session worth noting: “Cult of the Amateur” author and digital dystopian Andrew Keen gave a sobering talk called “Is Innovation Fair?” As Fast Company’s Francine Hardaway aptly summarized, he pointed to the downsides of our technological advances and argued that if SXSW is a gathering of the winners in the cultural shift, we have to remember that there are losers, too.

Pew’s paywall findings: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual “State of the News Media” study, and it’s a smorgasbord of statistics about every major area of journalism, from print to TV to the web. A summary of summaries: The study’s six major emerging trends (expanded on by Poynter’s Bill Mitchell), some of its key statistical findings, and the Columbia Journalism Review’s seven eye-popping statistics from the study.

The biggest headline for most people was the study’s finding that only seven percent of the Americans who get their news online say they’d spring for a favorite news source’s content if it went behind a paywall. (The AP writeup has a few more statistics and some analysis about online loyalty and advertising.) Jeff Jarvis, a longtime paywall opponent, wondered why newspapers are spending so much time on the paywall issue instead of their “dreadful” engagement and loyalty online. Former WSJer Jason Fry breaks down the study to conclude that the basic unit of online journalism is not the site but the article — thus undermining the primary mindset behind the paywall.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds, who writes the study’s section on newspapers each year, said he’s done with dead-and-dying as an industry theme. Instead, he said, the problem with most newspapers is that they are becoming insubstantial, shells of their former selves. “They lack the heft to be thrown up the front porch or to satisfy those readers still willing to pay for a good print newspaper.” Editor & Publisher pulled some of the more depressing statistics from Edmonds’ chapter. Yet Lee Rainie, who co-authored the study’s section on online economics, said he was still optimistic about journalism’s future.

A bleak look at local TV news: Another fascinating journalism study was released late last week by USC researchers that found disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, trends in Los Angeles local TV news: Crime, sports, weather and teasers dominate, with very little time for business and government. USC’s press release has some highlights, and co-author Martin Kaplan offers a quick, pointed video overview of the report, concluding with a barb about wants and needs: “I want ice cream. I need a well-balanced meal. Apparently the people of Los Angeles want 22 seconds about their local government. Maybe if they got more than that, they’d want more than that.”

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps was “flat-out alarmed” by the study and vowed some vague form of action. Jay Rosen was ruthless in his criticism on Twitter, and Los Angeles Times critic James Rainey used the study as the basis for a particularly well-written evisceration of local TV news. Rainey had the most promising suggestion, proposing that a cash-strapped TV station find a newspaper, nonprofit or j-school interested in partnering with it to build an audience around more substantive, in-depth TV news.

The iPad, magazines and advertising: As we expected, lots and lots of people have been ordering iPads since they went on sale — 50,000 in the first two hours and 152,000 in three days, according to estimates. We’re also continuing to get word of news organizations’ and publishers’ plans for apps; this week we heard that the AP will have an app when the iPad rolls out next month, and saw a nifty interactive feature for the digital Viv Mag. (The Guardian has a roundup of other video iPad demos that have come out so far.)

SXSW also had at least three sessions focusing on media companies and the iPad: 1) One on the iPad and the magazine industry focused largely on advertising — here’s a DigitalBeat summary and deeper thoughts by Reuters’ Felix Salmon on why advertising on the iPad could be more immersive and valuable than in print; 2) Another focusing on the iPad and Wired magazine, with Salmon opining on why the iPad is a step backwards in the open-web world; 3) And a third on iPad consumption habits and their effects on various industries.

Reading roundup: One ongoing discussion, two pieces of news and one smart analysis:

The conversation sparked by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreesen’s advice for newspapers to forget the printed paper and go all-in with online news continued this week, with Frederic Filloux noting that “there are alternatives to envisioning the transformation of the print media as only a choice between euthanizing the paper product or putting it on life support.” Steve Yelvington looked at setting up separate print and online divisions (been there, done that, he says), Tim Kastelle spun Andreesen and Google’s Hal Varian off into more thoughtful suggestions for newspapers, and Dorian Benkoil took the opportunity to marvel at how much things have changed for the better.

The first piece of news was Twitter’s launch at SXSW of @anywhere, a simple program that allows other sites to implement some of Twitter’s features. TechCrunch gave a quick overview of what it could do, CNET’s Caroline McCarthy looked at its targeting of Facebook Connect, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram was unimpressed.

Second, ABC News execs revealed that they’re planning on putting up an online paywall by this summer. The Guardian and paidContent have detailed interviews with ABC News digital chief Paul Slavin.

And finally, newspaper vet Alan Mutter examines the often-heard assertion that small newspapers are weathering the industry’s storm better than their larger counterparts. He nails all the major issues at play for small papers, both the pluses (lack of competition and broadband access, loyal readership) and the minuses (rapidly aging population, some local economies lacking diversity). He ultimately advises small papers to ensure their future success by innovating in order to become indispensable to their communities: “To the degree publishers emphasize short-term profits over long-term engagement, they will damage their franchises — and open the way to low-cost online competitors.”

December 02 2009

15:30

How Gotham Gazette Used Games as Storytelling Devices

With the launch of its energy game Switch, Garbage Game, for example, told us that it gave them a whole new appreciation of the complexity of the problem -- both how difficult it is to reduce solid waste and how expensive it is to dispose of this material.

Budget games, such as Balance (or the national one, Budget Hero), also do this. They make it clear that, whatever politicians might have us believe, closing deficits means raising taxes or cutting things most of us like, such as police officers, teachers and firefighters.

Games that are more instructional, such as ours about how the budget process works, have a role to play, too. But my hunch, based on our experience, is that unless they can be made extremely entertaining, people are less likely to try those out just for the heck of it. Instead, these games can play a valuable role for a community group seeking to inform its members, say, or a civics or political science class. (This realization owes much to a talk by Alice Robison at MIT last year.)

Building Good, Low Budget Games

Creating a good game requires a lot of work, money or both. When I spoke at a conference last year, people repeatedly expressed amazement about the low budget for Gotham Gazette's games. But for us -- and for many other small news publications -- the cost seemed huge. We never would have been able to do the games without Knight's support, and even with Knight's generosity, it often was a scramble and a struggle.

Part of this is technical: finding programmers or having one on staff. But reporting for the games is also extremely time consuming because you can't "fudge." So, for example, as we compared electricity savings for Switch, we had to insure they were all in the same units, covered the same period of time, and applied to the same geographical area. We could not use a mix of figures for the city and state, which is something we might do in a story.

If small organizations such as Gotham Gazette are to use games as one of their storytelling techniques, we need to create games with a long shelf life -- our Garbage Game gets many hits two years after its launch -- or ones that can be recycled. We are, for example, going to try to reuse Balance for the next budget cycle, by inserting new numbers. I've gotten some queries from others about how they could adapt this game to their locality.

Conclusion

Are games worth doing? I'd give a qualified yes. One great thing about the web is that it offers journalists so many tools for telling stories: conventional text, interactive databases, audio, video, and so on. Games are another valuable tool.

As the web matures, the key question we should ask ourselves is not, "Should we have an audio slide show or should we make a game?" Rather, we should ask, "How can we best engage and inform our readers about the topic at hand?"

And sometimes the answer will no doubt be, "Yes, let's make a game."

November 10 2009

14:43

New iPhone Game "Snakes and Ladders" Showcases India's Emerging Tech Dominance

After its launch on September 27th, Indian engineer T. Harikumar's game "Snakes and Ladders" has already had over 250,000 downloads. What are YOU waiting for?
Tags: Gaming
14:43

New iPhone Game "Snakes and Ladders" Showcases India's Emerging Tech Dominance

After its launch on September 27th, Indian engineer T. Harikumar's game "Snakes and Ladders" has already had over 250,000 downloads. What are YOU waiting for?
Tags: Gaming
14:41

Lawsuit Lodged Against iPhone Game Developer Storm8

Can Apple just shred off the blame from their shoulders when this truth is revealed – by just saying that the since the application has been developed by a third party, storm8?
Tags: Gaming
14:41

Lawsuit Lodged Against iPhone Game Developer Storm8

Can Apple just shred off the blame from their shoulders when this truth is revealed – by just saying that the since the application has been developed by a third party, storm8?
Tags: Gaming
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