Wick Communications

Make a game of it

In Online media on 11 Oct 2012 at 8:12 pm

Some at the fringe are suggesting that we make a game of the news. I mean that literally.

Ian Bogost sometimes calls it “gamification.” Bogost is a really, really bright guy who holds a couple of positions at Georgia Tech, where he is the founder of the Center for Media Studies there. He has written several books, including “Newsgames” and “How to do things with Videogames.” He is at the vanguard of those who believe we can more effectively spread the news by opening our minds to entirely new forms of storytelling. Like video games.

I tried to get him to write a little something for The Kicker and he said he might when “game-o-matic” is ready for release. It’s in Beta now but he did send me the tutorial. (I tried to register and am waiting for a confirmation email, hence the beta, I guess.)

The premise, as I understand it, is that we are all distracted beings longing for compelling media. Old story forms work, but often don’t hold our attention as well as “Angry Birds” or “Words with Friends.” So what if you combined the two – games and news?

Say the mayor of your town steals city funds and runs off with the city clerk. You could, and probably would, write a 20-inch news story about that. But you could also create a game – a game that might impart the necessary, relevant information and also go viral, bringing many more people to your journalism. …

Here’s how game-o-matic works. You create a word diagram for your game. You fill in nouns (like “mayor,” “girlfriend” and “Hawaii”) and connect them with verbs (like “steal,” “flee” and “love.”) You then attach avatars to resulting characters, and, well, it’s a little hard to envision. Eventually, you will end up with a rough game that shows the mayor hooking up with his clerk friend and running away from city authorities and toward the love nest in Hawaii. If you are still with me, take a look at the tutorial in the link to get a better idea how it works.

It’s clear that creating video games will soon be as easy as editing a photo on your smartphone. When that day comes, we will be seeing a whole lot more of them – on our Facebook news feeds, in emails sent between friends and on news websites. Bogost and his crew is attempting to make the process of game-making dummy-proof in much the way camera manufacturers made their products so much easier to use.

“Think of it,” intones the narrator on the YouTube tutorial, “as a point-and-shoot camera for video games.”

I know this seems crude. I know it’s hard to envision. But I also know it’s coming.



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