Serious Games Directory

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Click on the picture to play!

ITEMS ADDED: July 11, 2013

For years, innovators have been experimenting with how best to wed gaming elements and journalistic practices, and the advent of mobile gaming has only increased that drive; experiments abound. At face value, the proposition appears silly considering that there is a stigma that games are for entertainment, nothing more (great, gamification hits news), conjuring up images of FarmVille-like addiction sink holes with little substance to offer the player in return. Yes, there are those games, but gaming has always offered an incredible opportunity to allow a player to be immersed in a complicated set of circumstances — a system, a world, a situation – where they have to operate within the rules therein and embrace them in order to win.

As the list below shows, this has translated into many different gaming projects exploring different ways of engaging players. As an introduction into how games and journalism can and are being wed, think about explainer pieces. This is an area of journalism that can be enhanced greatly through incorporating gaming elements since these articles tend to focus on what a system or situation is to better prepare the reader. Let’s take the 2012 elections as an example of this. If you’re going to do an explainer about outside money in elections, imagine making it a game instead. Maybe you’re a candidate trying to scrape together funds to hold onto a Congressional seat. The act of participating in the election game, and having to deal with the importance and influence of money in that process, could better convey the concept as players are forced to learn the rules of the game in order to win, the rules being the nuts and bolts of campaign finance.

The interactivity offers players a possibility for high-level engagement, giving them a stake in the process. Also, consider that the game could actually be fun (really?), and therefore capture the attention of a player more effectively than an article alone. The topic of newsgames, aka journalism games and serious games, comes up so often in the course of conversations I have about the future of journalism I thought it would be useful to compile a list of journalism games I have found across the board. Games that are made to educate players about real-world issues are not new, but the revolutionary aspect of it involves the journalism world finally embracing this medium and developing it further. Though it’s not always journalism that is trying out these type of games; often non-profits and other organizations are experimenting with gaming to educate people on important issues or processes.

Some of these journalism games come in the form of interactive infographics, by far the most popular form of journalism games next to quizzes since they are simple to create. Some are full-blown simulations of complex systems, like food inspections or outsourced labor. Others are strategy games modeled off of real-world systems, like Oiligarchy. But what they all have in common is an attempt to draw a reader into an interactive world where they become a player and, in that transformation, become invested in the topic matter. So here’s the list! Have at it! As more projects are published, I will grow the list to include them. If you found a project not on this list, hit me up!

Journalism Games Directory

Quiz/Prediction Games

Breaking News/Developing Story Examples

Interactive Infographics

Choose-Your-Own Adventure-Style

  • Are you a Slut?: An interactive quiz-based game to determine how “slutty” you are. Mother Jones
  • Can I Get Pregnant?: Another great quiz/CYOA game from MoJo. Mother Jones
  • Getting Rid of Citizens United: An interactive quiz-based game showing different tracks to overturn Citizens United decision. Mother Jones
  • Got Swine?An interactive quiz-like game exploring whether you should seek medical attention for the flu. North By Northwestern
  • The Candidate: A game I made where you play a congressional candidate running for office in 2014. Bayreporta
  • The Curfew: Futuristic game that discusses contemporary issues of civil liberties and security in England. Channel 4 (UK)
  • SPENT: Player has to survive a month after being laid off; U.K.-based game. Urban Ministries of Durham
  • Survive 125: A game much like SPENT that instead focuses on extreme poverty in India. Live 58 

Strategy and Simulation

  • 21DEC2012: Here is a funny game exploring the 2012 Mayan apocalypse scenario. It’s a tough game. Alkemi Games
  • Climate Challenge: A cool and simple strategy game where you play the President of Europe tasked with reducing emissions. BBC
  • Climate DefenseTower defense-style game allowing player to fight climate change. Two modes of realism. Game the News
  • Cutthroat Capitalism: Strategy game that simulates piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Wired Magazine
  • Darfur is Dying: Strategy game that simulates dynamics of refugee camps and aid in Darfur. MTV
  • * NEW * Data Dealer: Think you have what it takes to collect people’s personal data online? Austria-based Team
  • * NEW * Eskom Energy Planner: The Sim City of energy-focused urban planning. Formula D
  • Helicopter BenA funny game where you play Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke as you try to prevent economic apocalypse. Wall Street Journal
  • MTV Fantasy Election ’12′: This game will allow players to create a fantasy team of candidates to track over the 2012 races. MTV
  • Game Dev Story: Strategy game that simulates running a video game company. Kariosoft
  • Gauging Your Distraction: Awesome NYT game that tests how well you can drive while being distracted. There’s an Easter Egg too. New York Times
  • Endgame: Syria: An interesting attempt to make a strategy game about Syrian Civil War in two weeks. Game the News
  • Food Import Follie: Strategy game that simulates the evolution of how the FDA inspects food imports. New York Times
  •  HeartSaver: A fast-paced game by ProPublica where you try and save people having heart attacks. ProPublica
  • Killer Flu: Strategy game that simulates the difference between the seasonal flu and swine flu. Persuasive Games
  • Kuma War: Real-world simulations of actual modern battles; U.S.-centric. Kuma Games
  • McDonald’s World: Strategy game that simulates running a transnational fast food company. La Molleindustria 
  • Oiligarchy: Strategy game that simulates energy politics through the lens of running an American oil company. La Molleindustria 
  • Phone Story: A puzzle game educating players about the life of a smartphone, from raw resource to disposal. Banned by Apple. La Molleindustria
  • Point of Entry: Strategy game that simulates immigration and the process of citizenship. New York Times
  • * NEW * Quandary: Flex your critical thinking and ethical dilemma muscles in this colonization game. Learning Games Network
  • The Redistricting Game: Strategy game that simulates politics involved with redistricting. USC Game Innovation Lab
  • * NEW * The Republia Times: Keep public opinion on your side by controlling what content is published in the state newspaper. Lucas Pope
  • September 12th: A game that editorializes on the tedium of the War on Terror. Newsgaming.com
  • Sweatshop: Strategy game that simulates a sweatshop-style manufacturing plant, modeled after tower defense games. Channel 4 (UK)
  • Windfall: Strategy game that simulates building wind power in an attempt to make it profitable. Persuasive Games

Parody

  • Disaffected: Parody game about Kinkos and customer relations. Persuasive Games
  • LayoffPuzzle game where player matches like professions for downsizing; criticizes American bank bailouts. R.I.T.
  • Super Mario Bros. BP Oil Spill: Parody on BP Oil Spill where Mario has to plug the leaks with fish. Newgrounds

Other

  • AstrophysicistsAn interactive journey exploring the story of a nomad planet. Wired Magazine
  • Cops Verse Streakers: Those damn streakers are at it again! Try to stop them, or try to evade the cops…naked! North By Northwestern
  • Cow CrusherThe agony of industrial meat production. Sometimes, horse meat gets in the mix… Game the News
  • Glowracer: A driving game exploring the idea of Smart Highways, roadways that glow-in-the-dark. Wired Magazine
  • Juego Los 33: Puzzle game about saving the Chilean miners trapped inside mine. Root33
  • Kettle: Puzzle game about using police to kettle protesters; U.K.-based. increpare
  • Madrid: A somber game where the player has to maintain the flames burning in memory of Madrid bombings. Newsgaming.com
  • Mortal Kombat: Obama vs Romney: A wacky debate game where you have to have quick typing skills to win. Huffington Post
  • My Cotton Picking Life: A tedious game meant to communicate child exploitation in Uzbekistan. Game the News
  • Save the Rhino!: A Cabal!-inspired game where you play a South African soldier hunting poachers. Wired Magazine
  • SpaceX: A puzzle game exploring the concept of the SpaceX experimental rocket. Wired Magazine

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