Journalism: It’s In The Game

Throughout this blog, I’ve explored various ways in which technology has impacted journalism, particularly looking at social media and the internet. Whilst browsing through Twitter, @MuckRack brought to my attention the game ‘1000 Days of Syria’; a gamification of the Syrian conflict. As an avid gamer myself, this not only appealed to me as a way of reading the news but immediately posed questions to me about the ethics of doing so.

Is news too ‘new’ to be made into a game? How can you cover sensitive topics like Syria as a game, when a game implies entertainment and fun?

The best way to find answers to these questions was to dive into the game itself. Before I began, an overview of the game is provided by its creator, Mitch Swenson, who details how the characters are fictional but the game plays out based on very real personalities and events. Interestingly, he even states in this foreword:

“I apologize in advance to anyone who might be offended by the following narratives. My intention is neither to entertain players with, nor benefit from, the deaths that have resulted from the instability in Syria.”

You are faced with a choice of playing as three different characters through the narrative, a mother, a rebel youth and an American journalist. Upon choosing the rebel youth, I was given an insight into his background, and then began to play through the Syrian conflict from his perspective.

I was given choices of paths to take through the narrative, whereby my own decisions to lead the rebel to different places provided information about the various aspects of the Syrian conflict and personalised my game experience.


The game is literature based; there is a clear omission of images and colour, and this really takes away the ‘lighthearted fun’ aspect of games. The game clearly presents facts and hard news in an interactive narrative, and literally puts it in black and white that these events are occurring in real life.

It is engaging and intriguing, yet you still find yourself wondering if it can be called entertaining. After all, the news is there primarily to provide us with information, not enjoyment.

When I was much younger, my favourite games used to be Medal of Honour on the Playstation. Based on real events in World War Two, and providing context as you moved through a timeline of the war, these games not only engaged me but taught me facts and events that occurred. The highlight of this was that I forgot most of the time that I was even learning; the games could teach me and evoke emotion about events I probably wouldn’t find out about otherwise, and this I believe, is the greatest advantage of newsgaming.

Passively receiving the news can struggle to provide a similar response, but through involvement in a game people can learn and understand potentially difficult news to grasp.

Of course, there is a line between news and entertainment that ethically cannot be crossed. However, as long as the facts presented within a newsgame are accurate, informative and engaging, I see no better way in involving people in the news.


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