Developing games to introduce serious and topical issuesBy Auroch Digital
Organisation URL: aurochdigital.com
Game the News is an experiment from Auroch Digital, a small digital studio based in Bristol, UK, to use rapid prototyping techniques to tell news stories through computer games. Its team has set out to make one game a day for a year, to explore how and if games can help grow people’s understanding and curiosity about current affairs.
40% of the UK population now plays games, Tomas & Debbie Rawlings founded GameTheNews.net because they were keen to connect gaming to real world issues. Given how popular gaming is, it is clear that its a great motivator for thoughts and ideas so they were interested in how this might be turned to understanding beyond the screen. There is some research showing that whilst playing games, the player thinks about a range of issues such as morals; this project brings these ideas to the fore
As well as combating the tendency for us to switch off at straight news reporting, Game the News contends that games let you explore political and social issues in a more dynamic way: letting you make choices about deadly and very real events. The most vivid example from the studio so far has been Endgame: Syria, a free HTML5 game that sought to bring alive the complexities of the current civil war, and that Apple banned from its App store in January 2013. It gave players the chance to explore various outcomes to the conflict, based on different decisions made by rebels.
Players are forced to confront situations where there are no easy answers, and no winners, expending resources on political and military machinations. The game can roll on indefinitely, without outside pressure for it to conclude, resulting in more and more deaths. The games are backed up by copious source notes. ‘It brings real issues to audiences who might not have been following those events…I hope the player comes away more informed,’ says Rawlings.
Non-fiction games are nothing new, of course, Medal of Honor and others have long plundered history, such as World War 2, as the virtual backdrops to action. Game the News’ uniqueness is in the sheer topicality or the subjects it covers: so it's marrying games development with journalism. 'There’s a stereotype that gamers are disconnected from the world,' says Rawlings, 'but it’s not the case. We want to marry technology with world events. It [also] allows an event to be explored in ways that linear media can't do so well. In Endgame: Syria you can replay events, making different decisions to see the different outcomes.'
Image courtesy of Game the News
Last updated: 01st of October, 2014