Serious news coverage notwithstanding, it's worth remembering that games have been a part of the news for almost a century, since the first "word-cross" puzzles appeared in the New York Sunday World in 1913.By the 1920s, the crossword was a sensation, becoming so popular that it even incited a moral panic. When the New York Times finally revised the form and made it more "literate" at the end of World War II, the public was sold. Since then, many newspaper readers look forward to the puzzles as a joyous and intellectually engaging part of the day. Puzzles have not always carried news content, but experiments such as editorial crosswords and news quizzes have tried to do so. The past, present, and future uses of such puzzle newsgames are covered in chapter 5, from digital adaptations of traditional news puzzles and quizzes to the popular online casual games that represent both a threat to and an opportunity for news publishers.
Journalism comprises a set of values and skills that must be learned somehow -- it is a literacy, a set of rules for reading, writing, and critiquing a particular domain of knowledge.The first steps of journalism practice are traditionally taken in classrooms or at school newspapers, but certain qualities of videogames make them ideal supplementary media for a journalistic education. In chapter 6, we discuss literacy newsgames, those that offer direct or indirect education in how to become a good journalist, or for understanding why journalism is important to citizens and their communities.
Speaking of communities, at first blush videogames might seem to oppose cooperative action. When we think of games, from tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons to board games like chess and Risk to videogames like Super Mario Bros. and The Sims, we normally think of them as private affairs. We play games indoors, at tables or televisions or computers. Even if we play with others, it is only in small groups. And while recent innovations in massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) can support many hundreds or thousands of simultaneous players at a time, those players are usually widely distributed geographically. In chapter 7, we explore new genres of community newsgames that create and nurture local populations -- often by situating games wholly or partly in the real world rather than in front of the screen.
As the technology with which news is created and disseminated changes, the very form of journalism alters itself. While the genres of newsgame just mentioned represent immediate opportunities for news organizations, many more might be developed in the future, either in response to technological shifts or as entirely new inventions. In chapter 8, we explore newsgame platforms, systems for the creation of new forms of game-based journalism that might supplement or replace current coverage in the future. In its most basic form, a platform is something that makes it easier to build other things.The newspaper itself is a platform that supports research, writing, printing, distribution, and feedback from the public. The format of the evening news is a platform that describes how to order stories in a useful or compelling way, how to integrate advertising, and how to consistently produce a televised show. Starting from familiar yet alternative platforms for news like fantasy sports, we speculate on the novel newsgaming platforms (and new applications of existing computational platforms) that might support journalism in the future. They range from the familiar to the bizarre -- what if a news organization released a documentary game "yearbook" about the changes in a local community? What if Yoshi the dinosaur from Super Mario World needed health care, and he had to buy insurance at the going rates? What if the dynamics of New York City racketeering laws could be operationalized in Grand Theft Auto? These possibilities suggest how journalists might think about what they do in new ways, instead of simply translating old media for digital distribution. It is on this note that we conclude the book, with a call to action for journalists and news organizations.