A Serious Look at Serious Games

A recent Christian Science Monitor article profiled ‘News Games’ ‘ the emerging genre of non-fiction games that expose players to the news-making process and help them understand the complexity of issues in the news.

Ian Bogost, the head of Persuasive Games, is an associate professor at Georgia Tech who classifies the roles and uses of news games on his blog. Among these are serious, complex games and quick and easy ‘tabloid games.’

Some games help the public understand how a newsroom works. The Newseum in Washington, D.C. has released two games via News University, Be a Reporter and Be an Editor, and anyone can play them online. Link TV‘s interactive Global News Literacy modules show players how news is covered in different countries and allow users to remix their own clips.

Link TV’s News Remixer

Games can also make complicated problems easier to understand and solve. Knight News Challenge winners have received grants to create games for community engagement.

Paul Grabowicz’s Remembering 7th Street allows players to explore the history and demise of the Oakland, CA jazz scene in the 1940s and 50s.

Screenshot--remembering 7th Street

Remembering 7th Street

Gotham Gazette’s games about New York City like The Garbage Glut and Budget Maze let players become policymakers.

Screenshot--Budget Maze

Budget Maze  

Nora Paul, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute for New Media Studies, modified the Neverwinter Nights game to create ‘Playing the News‘, starting with’games about using ethanol as fuel. Angela Anthony’s game will’turn energy conservation into a friendly competition among neighbors.

Screenshot--Ethanol Game 2

Playing the News’ Ethanol Issues Board Game

The Knight News Game Awards were presented in May at the 6th annual Games for Change Conference. Check out Best News Game winner Play the News; Lifetime Achievement Award winner September 12th, a Toy World; and honorable mentions Budget Maze and Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City.

Screenshot--Play the News

A Play the News game called Israel-Iran Enrichment Faceoff

Knight News Challenge winners blog about their games on PBS’s Idea Lab.