I went to journalism school for a semester, where I had a jolly, cynical, old-school professor named Charles Davis, who thinks of hard news as vitamins. “Don’t give them what they want!” he would shout, referring to the demand for celebrity news and other unchallenging sorts of content. “Give ‘em what’s good for ‘em!”
One way to do that: Incorporate game mechanics. It’s kind of bummerish to think that citizens need to be tricked into reading hard news. But if it leads to more news consumption, why not? Kids get to learn to read through games–adults could learn about education policy, for example, the same way. The Hacks/Hackers Meetup is hosting a news games hackathon this weekend at the CUNY School of Journalism. The event will include news hacking as well as talks on how gaming elements can make hard news less, you know, boring! News can be fun!
There’s also some evidence that news games result in a higher level of comprehension than reading an article. “Newsgames are particularly optimal for exploring and explaining topics and stories that involved complex systems,” Chris O’Brien summed things up in an article on MediaShift Idea Lab. “Allowing people to experience these stories, more than just showing or telling them the information, has the potential to have enormous impact on their understanding of a topic.”