ROLL THE DICE
IS IT POSSIBLE TO PLAY WITH YOUR NEWS?

“As a planet we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games”

 What is Gamification of News?

The Gamification of News is a recent phenomenon featured in the World Editors Forum – Trends in Newsrooms 2015 that involves presenting news stories through the means of an online game which can range from quizzes and contests to full scale Journalistic Investigations.

Why are Newsrooms adopting the Trend?

Although some Journalists worry that games have an inability to convey the severity of some topics, Florent Maurin, a prominent game designer and Journalist, believes that games have the power to not only convey the news, but also educate audiences, demonstrating the adverse impacts that minority groups, such as Syrian refugees, have to face. Education through Gamification has had a positive effect worldwide and according to the Education Arcade at MIT “Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail, and problem-solving, all behaviours that ideally would be regularly demonstrated in school.”doc-1

There are a range of psychological benefits that result from game playing. Cascading Information Theory states that “information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.” Hence, through Gamification of News, journalists are able ensure that their consumer understands the story entirely, rather than just skimming the article for its main points. Evidently, this theory works better with Investigative Journalistic pieces that require a deep contextual understanding. Game creators use aspects such as countdown and failure (discussed below) to harness Cascading Information Theory, exacerbating the role of Journalists in current investigations:

Count-down: One must not only solve the puzzle, but also work in a specific time frame, a challenge that is preeminent to all journalists globally.

Failure: Failure allows individuals to learn from their mistakes and highlights the complexities of certain issues. It also demonstrates that there are consequences for ones actions.

As discussed in the video below, goal achievement is a primal human need that creates satisfaction within the individual. Goal achievement is vital for motivation to complete daily activities and if utilised by journalists, can engage audiences, teaching them about national and international issues.

Who has adopted Gamification and how has it been implemented?

Gamification has been adopted primarily by Al Jazeera and the BBC who saw an opening to develop a new kind of journalism that would engage tech savvy individuals, primarily the younger generation. Although Maurin does not feel that gamification will take over traditional journalism, he states “It’s one other tool in the journalism toolbox.”

doc-2Al Jazeera Investigative Journalist Juliana Ruhfus developed a game titled Pirate Fishing which involves investigating how illegal fishing negatively affects the poor in West Africa. The game is set in Sierra Leone and allows people to understand the commitment that investigative journalists have when developing a story for public consumption. As shown in the video below, the game exacerbates the many challenges that journalists undergo to deliver an accurate story to consumers:

Furthermore, Rebuilding Haiti is another initiative written by Jean Abbiateci designed to exemplify the plethora of issues that affected the country due to an earthquake in 2010. These issues include a lack of funding to relocate the homeless, school improvement and access to health. The game forces consumers to make choices, and conveys difficulties such as legislative and budget constraints, illustrating the challenges faced when rebuilding a city.

Another form of Gamification is Immersive Journalism (Lu, 2015), achieved through Virtual Reality “Using VR goggles, an individual walks through a 3D-rendered reality, which recreates scenes and events.” Although Virtual Reality is an effective means of Gamification, as the technology is expensive and not readily available, producers prefer to use 3D and computer technology that is available to most people.

Is there a future for the Gamification of News?

Gaming is a popular and interactive aspect of society that is being adopted by Journalists globally. Gamification of everyday news items does not seem viable, however for investigative journalism endeavours, the technology serves to amplify the meaning of the story, and allows the audience to grasp and understand more complex issues that are affecting not only Australian society, but problems on a global scale. It is important to note, that although the Gamification of News is an engaging way to convey an important topic, it is fundamental that Journalists do not move away from fundamental journalistic skills. Not only do Journalists now have to investigate issues themselves, they must include every step of their discovery in the final product, which increases Journalistic accountability, ensuring a broad and unbiased perspective on global issues.

References

Cover Image: City of Fremantle, 2016, Image, viewed 11 November 2016, http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/whats-on/future-journalism
Image One: Shutter stock 2016, Gamification, Image, viewed 11 November 2016, https://www.shutterstock.com/search/gamification
Image Two: Hebert, S 2013, Motivation Drives Action, Image, Mr Hebert, viewed 11 November 2016, http://www.mrhebert.org/gamification.html

Lu, A 2015, Where Games, Virtual Reality and Wearables Meet, in Trends in Newsrooms 2015, pp. 13-20, viewed 11 November 2016, file:///C:/Users/emily.rodgers/Desktop/Trends-in-newsrooms-2015.pdf

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