Opinion

Have you ‘played’ the news today?

Zan Azlee

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

AUG 5 — I always thought I was all hip and up to date with the latest in all things media, and I made sure I bragged about it to my students and everyone else too.

Then, during a lecture one day, a small and scrawny student of mine raised his hand and asked if I enjoyed playing computer games.

“Zan, what do you think of computer games?” he asked while adjusting his spectacles.

“Ha! Video games are for people who can’t do the real thing but just like to fantasise that they can!” I laughed.

I was obviously poking fun at scrawny nerds in front of TV screens pretending to be hot shot English Premier League football players or mutant super heroes who save the day.

“Have you heard of news games?” he went on.

“News what?”

“News games, sir. It’s computer games that are based on news and current affairs.”

Apparently, there is a new medium for journalism and it’s actually video games. Basically, you get your news from playing a game instead of the newspaper.

This is very interesting because it is a perfect example of how journalism (or the media in general) has adapted to suit the modern-day audience.

When newspapers first came about a gajillion years ago, the characteristics of the readers were that they enjoyed analysing news and understanding it better.

Newspapers allowed this because readers could take their time reading and digesting the news by picking up the newspaper whenever and for however long they wanted.

Then, when broadcast news emerged, the characteristic of the viewers and listeners were different because it was the start of the consumption of “instant news.”

Those who turned to broadcast wanted news that was quick and had more impact, with audio and visuals to assist in the consumption.

Today, the development of games to present the news is obviously a reflection of how the public these days aren’t satisfied with just knowing the news.

It doesn’t just end with consumption. What people want is to actually feel and experience the news based on the few pioneering news games that exist today.

Many of these news games offer the “players” the opportunity to put themselves in the situation of whatever news that is currently happening.

Take for example, “Inside Disaster”, a news game developed soon after the tragedy that is the massive Haiti earthquake (insidedisaster.com).

Very similar to role-playing games, it offers “players” the opportunity to experience the tragedy from several viewpoints: the journalist’s, the aid-worker’s or the survivor’s.

Then there is “Play the News”, which allows “players” to predict what is going to happen in the future after knowing the latest news (playthenews.com).

The game allows “players” to express their opinions by deciding what should happen, or, to make predictions by expressing what they think will really happen.

Another deeply engaging news game is “Play Spent”, which highlights the global economic depression that is going on (playspent.org).

“Players” of the game are to navigate through different economical and financial situations such as looking for a job, buying health insurance, or renting a house, etc.

At the end of the month, it shows if you’ve managed to make it or not. And, of course, surviving without being in financial ruins is the challenge of the game.

So it’s obvious that today people no longer want to just read the news or view the news. It is so passé now to meet someone and say “Have you heard the news today?”

Instead, today’s opening remarks between people when something big happens would more likely be “Hey, have you played the news today?”

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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