Game Design: A Case Study
How can journalists use game design and how we can use it for better, more engaging stories?
This is a question I have been grappling with all week.
After my last post about game design being useful in journalism, I decided why not produce a case study on game design actually being utilized?
The games listed above are all ones that were created by journalists after thorough investigation/research or as a test-run for what could be successful.
As a journalism student, a common phrase I have heard within the last few months is "now is a brilliant time to be studying media." The United States within the last two years has been a whirlwind of media coverage from the Presidential election of 2016, the numerous cases of domestic mass shootings, and a variety of other odd cases.
So the first time I sat down to play the game "Factitious" I was struck by the result of only being able to identify fake news 60% of the time! However, this was me just skimming headlines. I did this to see how most people digest their news. With the craziness of the United States right now, I'd honestly believe anything which caused me to only be able to spot 60% of fake news. But the second time I played, I read the short article blurbs as well as the source at the bottom allowing me to identify fake news 93% of the time.
With the increasing amount of Americans receiving their news online, four in ten as of 2016 according to Pew Research Center, it is a startling concept that 46% of Americans believe media make up stories about Trump (POLITICO/Morning Consult poll).
But if we return to the original point of inquiry - how could a game online be beneficial for journalists to tell their stories? Well, if many Americans (approximately 138.9 million people) believe that the media is making up information, what if they reached the conclusion themselves? Arguably, there could be several flaws with this idea: the media bias will seep into the game design, the narrative or the results themselves. However, if we assume the factors of design and narrative are objective the gamer should ideally be able to reach a result that is of their own "experience."
This concept would involve a multifaceted result system where the gamer could end up with several results based upon what they did in the game.
For example, the game "Heart Saver" teaches the gamer about the serious problem of NYC's population density regarding individuals having heart attacks or heart problems. Each time I played that game, I only managed to save six to nine lives out of 26. (Although, this game was done solely on estimation rather than thorough, in-depth research).
Yet the Uber game allows for the individuals to experience the life of a typical US driver needing to make ends meet, be an attentive parent, and make feasible business decisions. The ultimate goal is obviously to make as much money as you can with the most reasonable amount of hours in as you can. However, sometimes life happens like a pebble hitting your windshield or you going over on your data plan. The goal of the game is to be able to pay the mortgage bill at the end of the week but still get enough sleep, help your son with homework, and pay off whatever else you need to. This sneak peak into the life of Uber drivers allows the gamer to understand that while they may make above the minimum wage, it is also possible to make below the average.
However, the “Draw It” game is an interactive graphic that allows you to estimate a trend comparing the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Essentially, the New York Times tries showing how certain elements in US society improved or declined in Obama's administration compared to Bush's. While this is also a good use of game design in journalism, I would say this is quite different from an actual game design. First and foremost, this reminded me of the Reuter's interactive graphic on their Taser story. But unlike the other games, this was not reliant on the gamers choices to create a result. Rather, it was a guessing game. While this can be beneficial in telling certain stories, I think the aspect of the gamer's choices leading to the solution can help retaliate this notion of 'fake news'.
So in a world of increasing technological advances and increasing users getting their news from online, game design has been seen as very beneficial to tell stories. However, the reluctance many journalism and media organizations have towards 'game design' is the lack of serious stigma surrounding it. Maybe calling it 'engagement design' would finally get journalists to listen?