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Try to recall your earliest memories of a newspaper. What comes to mind? Reading the sports section? News reporter games over comic strips? Conquering the crossword puzzle? We have always played with our news. By necessity and by invention, news is consumed imaginatively in a wider context than just a tallying of events. This fact is especially evident in a digital environment, where news stories intermingle with disparate forms of communication, from social media networks to massively multiplayer online games.
As much as the Internet and digitization have disrupted the business of news in countless ways, the growing multiplicity of information sources, games, play, leisure activities, and entertainment has expanded the daily news experience. Despite stigmas and f surrounding play and the news, we can draw vital lessons from their complex relationship. Many of the tools that online newsmakers use are similar to those applied in games.
Even the fervor with which we share information on social media can be considered playful. This report describes specific intersections between games, play, and journalism, highlighting strategies, products, and sites of playful activity in the current news landscape with the goal of elucidating this pervasive phenomenon. Projects developed by the likes of The Washington Post and Mother Jones, and playful newsrooms like BuzzFeed, help illustrate some of the techniques journalists use to engage, news reporter games, and educate readers through play.
The report also counsels journalists, developers, and editors about the best ways and means of incorporating games and play into the newsroom. I have drawn prescriptions from interviews with journalists, editors, and developers at a wide variety of journalistic institutions, from The Miami Herald to ProPublica. This research also includes commentary from educators in journalistic institutions, who are experimenting with playful de, and a of developers in the game industry, whose expertise helps bridge the gap between traditional games and the novel forms newsrooms are adapting 1.
This chapter scrutinizes the history of play and the news by tracing the origins of crossword puzzles in newspapers and exploring the fluctuations in popularity of those news products based primarily around video game-based elements, such as newsgames in the mids and gamification in the past five years. These historical vignettes expose some of the key news reporter games for newsrooms to use games and play—to engage and maintain users, provide support and richness to the news bundle, and modernize traditional news formats.
The second chapter establishes some of the common attributes of games and play in current digital news products. Following this discussion is a glossary of existing game and play mechanics in journalism. Certain digital newsrooms are becoming increasingly playful environments in which news producers and the products they create are both experimental and fun.
Rather than snubbing play as merely childish, it inspires a variety of newsroom practices, from bolstering reader loyalty to encouraging improvisation Little is taken for granted in this dynamic news environment, and empathy, fun, and novelty are continuously encouraged. As the news industry struggles financially, the video game industry has become news reporter games of the most lucrative in the world—a seventy-six billion dollar industry in What economic lessons could digital newsrooms take from the game industry, even as both compete for views and clicks?
This section breaks down different business models in the game industry and their applicability to news products. Even the most fervent newsgame advocates recognize that there are limits for when and how to use games in the newsroom. Certain types of content may not be best represented in game formats. Also, the culture of journalism, from graduate and professional schools to entrenched news organizations, seems to have become resistant to playful environments, which le to the isolation of playful deers and developers in newsrooms.
Furthermore, the use of games and play appears to have both negative and positive effects on the perceived brand of a news organization. Practically, the most ificant deterrents in game usage are the skills, time, and financial resources required to create, deploy, and maintain these products. The last chapter of this report dispenses practical advice and best practices for employing games and play within the newsroom based on the work of not only successful journalists, but also game deers and developers.
This research report advocates for a flexible newsroom, willing to tailor its products and departments to its readership and subject matter. Just as game deers espouse both user testing and continual tinkering in order to cultivate a truly immersive and fun game, similar practices can be instituted inside newsrooms. At the same time, the space in which people make news should be rethought, with fewer rigid departmental boundaries and a more diverse staff. Of course, there is no singular model or method that will work across all newsrooms, and constant adaptation must accompany these innovations.
While offering guidance about specific popular tools for game de, I support the development of open source and open access tools. This will not only allow new playful forms of storytelling to emerge, but also aid in the creation of standards for the further preservation of multimedia and interactive projects.
For digital newsrooms already built around much of the same technology and practices of game deers, a playful approach seems particularly attractive. It was all the rage—mobile, inexpensive, and in almost every newspaper. Its checkerboard pattern adorned dresses and jewelry. There were Broadway songs written about it. Even as it was praised as a diversion and new form of education, some feared this contagious invention. The trajectory of the crossword puzzle epitomizes the relationship between games, play, and the news: 3.
Technology — Despite its laborious production, the crossword quickly prospered due to popular demand. Print technology made the newspaper ubiquitous, affordable, and portable. This allowed puzzle enthusiasts to play almost anywhere at any time.
User Feedback and Iterability — While it was professionals who deed and published puzzles, amateurs helped to shape them. The crossword subsequently changed its shape and structure, spawning a multitude of copycats and offspring. Thus, the rules of crossword puzzles developed from the bottom up, not the top down. Limitations and Purpose — Crosswords accommodated a wide array of content, much of which was not the news.
When The New York Times began publishing crossword puzzles in the s, it did so with the dictum of deing some around news subjects. Farrar soon disregarded this edict, partially because she felt that current events, like World War II, were too depressing. The crossword did not suit every situation. The News Bundle — The crossword never replaced traditional news formats. Instead it was part of the bundle of information, entertainment, and advertising offered to readers who bought the newspaper for the comics or puzzle section as much as the news.
It is worth noting that the crossword endured as part of the bundle even when distribution systems changed, and today remains conspicuous online.
It has continued to adapt, as have its adherents. Booms and Busts in Popularity — While perpetually fascinating, there have been definitive cycles of interest in crosswords, especially through the craze of the s and a smaller echo in the s. While puzzles and quizzes have invaded newspapers, television, teletext machines, and the web, newsmakers have regarded the inception of the video game and its popular ascent somewhat skeptically.
Nonetheless, there have been attempts to incorporate the theory, practices, and de of video games into journalistic products. The rise of newsgames began in the mid s. In an outstanding example, Darfur is Dyingnews reporter games as a t venture between mtvU, the Reebok Human Rights Foundation, and the International Crisis Group, users played at experiencing daily life in a refugee camp. Difficult and expensive to de, many of the newsgames of the s adhered to a model of collaboration between journalists and game deers with investment from philanthropic foundations and civic-minded partners. The book also emphasized the experiential, embodied quality of news reporter games and their ability to simply and clearly articulate systems rather than chronological or narrative-based stories.
After a surfeit of investment in the second half of the s, newsgames lost favor with producers and financiers. Gamification became the subject of criticism and curiosity in both the game de world and the news community, propelled by the idea that game elements like leaderboards, points, and badges could incentivize digital media users to participate more ardently in an activity. Google News, the Huffington Post, and Mashable appended badges and points to their web s. The fervor over gamification in the newsworld quickly cooled, and many organizations soon dropped badges and prizes.
Critics discounted the idea that some uniform game element, such as a badge, could work universally in any kind of news distribution. At its worst, such attempts seemed crass, as when the Israeli Defense Force attempted to gamify its news-oriented public relations blog with badges shortly before an invasion into Palestinian territory.
This brief history of games and the news showcases how little has changed in the process of integrating the two. Fundamentally, crossword puzzles, newsgames, and gamified elements rely on effective user engagement. All three innovations can educate and inform, as well as entertain the public through new and imaginative experiences of play. Each endured waves in popularity and persisted despite ebbs and flows.
However, these patterns also expose the arbitrary nature of incorporating games into news products. In each case, games are never meant to be the sole vehicle for relaying a story or comprehending the news. If we feel like we can tell a story using a game we might do that. This chapter presents an overview of the rules for game usage in current newsrooms.
Such use generally falls into two camps: In the first, producers de a particularly playful interactive feature for a specific piece of news; in the second, journalists employ stock formats, or specific reusable frameworks, for content. Deers also apply gamelike elements—from simple reward systems to full gameworld environments where players are fully immersed—to particular news stories. The decision to make a playful or gamelike product often originates from the content itself.
And people were shocked and surprised and excited about how accurate the quiz was. Features like these can bring attention to specific news events in unique and engaging ways, particularly when executed well. Content-driven de can also supplement coverage of major news events. Features are not without drawbacks, especially since they require investments of time, funds, and skills. In addition, audiences should be able to play features repeatedly. On the other side of the spectrum are a variety of game templates and stock formats, which often require simple user and journalistic input.
As a consequence, writers can publish quizzes without needing technical skills. These stock formats, whether deed in-house news reporter games with third-party software, are meant to accommodate multiple stories and content. They demand less initial time and effort from deers and can be released quickly. The goal is to optimize the format to maximize audience response.
Although stock formats cost little to assemble and deploy, publishers who want to build them may need to seat de-oriented developers in the newsroom. Metrics on audience participation become imperative. Ideally, a good format will seamlessly integrate into news production and can be a low-cost alternative to more time- and skill-intensive features. What qualifies as gamelike, playful, or fun runs the gamut across news institutions.
While a few may employ specialized developers, most hire staff not specifically trained in game de to be multi-tasked members of their multimedia and development teams. The following glossary of playful mechanics highlights and exemplifies the strengths and weaknesses of products newsmakers have already devised.
These are news reporter games key points in a spectrum of game use and not a full disclosure of every playful possibility. Almost as quickly as gamification rose in popularity at the beginning of this decade, it has now fallen out of favor.
News organizations, like the Huffington Post and Google News, no longer dispense virtual rewards to their audiences. When they did, elements like badges, points, and leaderboards represented some of the most facile stock formats. Easy to deploy and de, they were intended to motivate readers and garner brand recognition.
BuzzFeed is more subtle: It uses numerical incentives by quantifying audience reaction with stickers displayed at the bottom of its articles. So while flagrant gamification may have faded, incentives remain a convenient way to captivate particular audiences. News organizations can implement these quickly, effortlessly, and continually. Their ephemeral quality, along with a focus on primarily written content, makes quizzes and trivia formats attractive. BuzzFeed has a few different quiz- and question-based formats, including trivia and graphically rich name generators. Mother Jonesaccording to editor Tasneem Raja, has also built tools to animate provocative and controversial topics.
Its quizzes have taken on immigration 21 and politics, 22 while its news reporter games have broached subjects like birth control. The strength of the quiz and question model is its flexibility. The more integrally they are built into the CMS, the more widely they can be repurposed. Similarly, they are uncomplicated and do not require players to learn new rules for play.
The of the quiz or questionnaire can become fodder for audience discussion and social distribution. A personal stake in the may contribute to the virality of particular content or help recontextualize serious arguments like those taken up by Mother Jones. However, the transience and simplicity of the quiz can also deter from exploring content in depth. There is no shortage of examples of situation-specific playful des in the newsroom. Situation-specific des appropriate unique data into playful modes. Game elements can help fixate on specific aspects of data and uniquely present it to consumers as they interact with the material.
NPR fashioned its election to present a quirky view of the electoral college. Likewise, its coverage this past year assumed an election party theme.
Since situation-specific des require more effort, in terms of both composition and code, those that produce these schemes tend to be larger institutions with the necessary resources already in place. What distinguishes a specific de or package from a more holistic game? Gameworlds are autonomous spaces that provide an immersive and unique user experience. Think carefully about what you want to do, what story you are telling, what information you want to convey: For some things, games are great tools, particularly if you are trying to get people to understand a news reporter games system, a particular relationship between multiple pieces of conflicting data and how they interact, or to role-play and experience from a particular point of view.
Many classic newsgames might fall into this category. These games are built explicitly with journalistic subjects and principles in mind, and are often collaborations between journalists, game deers, and philanthropic organizations. Others include commercial video games with a news focus, such as Papers, Please —an independent game made to relate the immigrant experience 29 —or Democracy 3—a game explicating the intricacies of world democracy.
They may also tackle more endemic issues, such as the game Spent, which focuses primarily on poverty in the United States.News reporter games
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