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February 03 2012


#newsrw: What are newsgames and how do you use them?

The idea of using news in a video game is a relatively new and unfamiliar concept to many news editors. Many may not have even heard of newsgames.

So, let’s start with the basics: What exactly is a newsgame and how could it possibly apply to journalism?

In the newsgame session at news:rewired – media in motion, panelist Bobby Schweizer, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play, addressed those questions.

“Don’t be afraid of experimenting and of trying something new,” he said. “The payoff just might be good journalism.”

Schweizer’s definition of a newsgame is any application of journalism in videogame form. It can fall into one of seven categories: current events; infographics; documentaries; puzzles; teaching literacy; community engagement; and plaforms for games.

Schweizer also laid out eight different uses of newsgames. They can be used to:

  1. Editorialize;
  2. Raise awareness about specific events and what happened;
  3. Simulate dynamics;
  4. Model issues;
  5. Recreate events;
  6. Teach;
  7. Portray experiences;
  8. Turn stories into systems.

Schweizer used many different newsgame examples to illustrate how the games worked. One, called “los 33,” has the user save the Chilean miners who were stuck underground – one by one. Schweizer said it took him eight long minutes to finish the game and made him realize more clearly how the Chilean miner rescue was more than just great visuals.

“It was a laborious slog,” he said. “Eight minutes of having to do that gets at that kind of idea.”


LIVE: Session 3A – Newsgames

Incorporating gaming mechanics into the storytelling process is a good way to engage readers and help them to understand a news event. This session will hear from experts in this field on how newsrooms can use gaming mechanics, from a basic level – open to those with a limited time and budget – to more advanced video-game styles. The speakers will discuss what type of stories this format is best suited to.

With: Bobby Schweizer, doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of Newsgames: journalism at play; Shannon Perkins, editor of interactive technologies, Wired.com; Al Trivino, director of innovation at News International; and Alastair Dant, interactive lead at the Guardian.


Newsgames editorialise, and can raise awareness.

Games based on real events like the Hudson river crash, raise awareness and engage readers in a new way.


Bobby Schweizer is opening the session, and poses the question, “what is a news game?”

Current events games, and infographics that allow you explore data are two examples.

June 03 2011


Speaker presentations: Session 2A – Developing the data story

Here are the presentations from Session 1A – ‘The data journalism toolkit’, at last week’s news:rewired conference.

The session featured:

With: Professor Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder, helpmeinvestigate.com; Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian; Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu; Conrad Quilty-Harper, data reporter, the Telegraph. Moderated by Simon Rogers; editor, Guardian datablog and datastore.

Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University, London

Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu


Conrad Quilty-Harper, data mapping reporter, the Telegraph

Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian

See the full session on video

May 27 2011


#newsrw: Keep the audience interested with interactivity

The developing the data story session gave predictions for the future – that it will be lots of screens and HTML5 – and how the Guardian would like to lengthen the life span of the data journalism news story.

Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder of helpmeinvestigate.com used the principal of toys to give ideas on developing the data story and explained the importance of  “future proofing the information we are gathering”, saying “that’s one of the big commercial imperatives”.

Conrad Quilty-Harper, data mapping reporter at the Telegraph, explained how creating maps adds to a story by using the example of a map on bike sharing schemes he created (though did not publish) using “Google Fusion Tables and a bit of javascript”.

He recommends Google Maps and says the trailblazer of a news site using Google Fusion tables is the Texas Tribune.

One of the Telegraph’s examples Quilty-Harper gave was a map of what the UK would look like if the 2010 election was decided by people voting under the AV.

He said the Telegraph is moving away from Flash graphics, which is not supported by the iPad.

“My proudest example” was a live interactive Royal Wedding map which “worked brilliantly for three hours”.

It showed some of the best tweets and were geolocated on the map. “We’ve got the data and we’re gong to analyse it and do something with it in the future,” he said. “It tells you what people in specific locations were thinking”.

The Telegraph would like to use the technology in a crisis news story, such as an earthquake or conflict.

“There’s a lot of underused resource” in the UK when it comes to creating maps, Quilty-Harper explained, saying the US are ahead of the game.

He gave a tip that the Met office has an amazing resource of data on weather.

Federica Cocco is editor of OWNI.eu and demonstrated the power of bloggers, data journalists, activists and graphic designers working together.

OWNI considers itself a think tank and as describes what they do as “augmented journalism”.

She showed examples a map demonstrating internet freedom in Europe and this impressive interactive piece of data journalism of shale gas extraction, which in cases has contaminated drinking water supplies.

Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist at the Guardian, gave a run down of how news websites use interactive content.

He listed the use of photos, slideshows, the interactive timeline, maps, charts and graphics, open-ended systems or ‘games’, which are interactive and allow users to make choices about what should happen, for example.

In explaining how interactivity assists data visualisation, he used an example of captured Twitter traffic during the World Cup showing “data in motion”.

In the case of the Afghan war logs he said “we wanted to create film like experience” using the data.

His view of the future is one of “lots of screens” as people use phones and tablet devices and of HTML5, which provides cross browser compatibility, overcoming the current problem.

Dant’s three tips for making interactive content are:

1. Google Fusion Tables

2. Tableau

3. Dipity, which is for timelines.

A question on how interactivity affects the audience and visitor numbers resulted in Paul Bradshaw discussing how many interactive maps and graphics go viral.

“With interactivity you get engagement”, Bradshaw said, and people spend a lot more time on the page – five times longer in the case of the data store, Bradshaw said.

For the Telegraph the AV map was particularly popular with audiences.

Simon Rogers of the Guardian said the amount of work that goes in to many data stories warrants a greater lifespan and said that interactive posts may soon have a life beyond the news story, for example in Facebook, something being worked on at the paper.


LIVE: Session 2A – Developing the data story

We have Matt Caines and Ben Whitelaw from Wannabe Hacks liveblogging for us at news:rewired all day. You can follow session 2A ‘Developing the data story’, below.

Session 2A features: Professor Paul Bradshaw, visiting professor, City University and founder, helpmeinvestigate.com; Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist, the Guardian; Federica Cocco, editor, OWNI.eu; Conrad Quilty-Harper, data reporter, the Telegraph. Moderated by  Simon Rogers; editor, Guardian datablog and datastore.

Click on the link below to access the liveblog:

February 24 2011


Matt Wells on The Guardian’s interactive protests Twitter map

Twitter network of Arab protests - interactive map | World news | guardian.co.uk

Twitter network of Arab protests - interactive map | guardian.co.uk

The Guardian have published an impressive map displaying Twitter coverage of protests around the Arab world and the Middle East. I asked Matt Wells, who oversaw the project, to explain how it came about.

The initial idea, which I should credit to deputy editor Ian Katz, was to build something that showcased the tweets of our correspondents, along a broader network of vetted tweeters in different countries. We wanted to connect all of these on a map, so you could click on a country and see relevant live-updating tweets.

I was asked to oversee it. The main thing was to check out the best English-language tweeters in each country – preferably people who appeared reliable, who were involved in first-hand reporting themselves, and who did a lot of retweeting of others.

I started by asking our correspondents who they followed, then broadened it out from there. We asked everyone if they minded being included – we had one refusal from a Tweeter in a particularly authoritartian country who was worried about the exposure. Everyone else thought it was a great idea.

Meanwhile one of our developers, Garry Blight, overseen by Alastair Dant, set about building it. As with anything of this kind, it took a bit longer than orginally anticipated, but we had it ready on the day that Mubarak fell. And brilliantly, it has worked for every country since then.

It’s powered by a Google spreadsheet – so it’s really easy to add new people and to attach them to particular countries or search terms.

And it should be very easily adaptable for other news events around the world.

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