Monday, August 29, 2011

Playing Games with the News - for good reasons

NEWSGAMES: Journalism at Play
by Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari and Bobby Shweizer
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. 235pp.

The role of journalism in shaping public opinion is always contentious. As information media proliferate, the traditional ethics and rationales are challenged by any number of media that draw upon current events as the basis for entertainment and propaganda. If this is not traditional "news" or "journalism", it is none the less a powerful influence shaping the world views, decisions, and behaviours of huge sections of populations.

In democracies, this matters.  Who could deny the power of media "personalities" to make, or more often to break, the public standing of a politician or opinion-leader?

Newsgames is the product of Ian Bogost - graduate of the MIT new media stream and now professor at Georgia Tech, together with two of his grad students (let's assume the grad students did most of the grunt work in collecting and collating examples and case studies).

The point of the book is to examine how "games" interact with the practice of journalism. Here the scope of "games" is extended to cover all forms of interactive simulations and graphics that are now available to the online world.  So it embraces quite a lot that might earlier have been described as "educational" material - but who wants education if you can call it games in stead?

It's any interesting read for anyone who cares about the role of information in our advanced democracies, and where future generations may go with the information media. Bogost  himself is a participant in this, not just an academic observer. His company "Persuasive Games" has been active in producing interactive news-based games that have enjoyed a degree of online success.  So you could read a bit of cross-promotion into the selection of numerous examples from Persuasive Games. I don't have a problem with that.