Eight reasons why journalists are wary of gamification P2

Audio, Feature, Featured, Gamification, Interview, Journalism industry

 Posted on: November 8, 2014


Part two on why gamification has not yet taken root in journalism with Juliana Rufus, reporter of Al Jazeera, talking about her experience in making interactive news. Part one available here.



5. What is a game? The problem of public perceptions of games and journalism


Many of us lack understanding on what journalism gamification is. [tweet]Journalism games differ from traditional gaming in there is no ‘win’ or ‘lose’: only goals to work towards, or accomplishments to earn.[/tweet]


bbc comet game

The BBC used a game to tell the story of the Rosetta mission to land a robot on a comet



Gamification uses something akin to positive reinforcement, not focused on competition with others (although that is a form of gamification in other businesses with different goals).


It is meant to supplement current journalism, not replace it. It is an opportunity to communicate and explore those ‘boring’ or complicated stories, which are difficult to tell in 300 words, in an engaging and understandable manner.


A second assumption which needs to be challenged is that gamification is a gimmicky way to get pageviews. But, as Al Jazeera demonstrated through good game design, it can be used to teach the audience about important stories that they would normally have skipped over.


If done correctly, gamification can connect citizens with their own societies by engaging with them in depth over these important, albeit sometimes dry, stories – rather than relying on quick and short updates that assume the reader has prior knowledge and the motivation to maintain that.


[tweet]Games offer an opportunity to give online news depth alongside the brevity it is better known for.[/tweet]





 6. What is a game? The need to form a team to handle gamification and set guidelines


“The problem,” says Juliana, “is that you need a much larger team: programmers obviously; designers; and so on.”


With no permanent journalistic teams created to oversee or manage gamification in journalism it clearly will not grow as fast as it has in education or even social media.


Those considering a gamification project have no existing guidelines to rely on, meaning any research on gamification has to be done from scratch by any team.


This also means that the looming problems of resources and objectivity will continue to be an obstacle and many teams are doomed to repeat mistakes from the past that could have easily been avoided with prior knowledge of those before them.


The magazine Superinteressante has made games on drug trafficking and police investigations.


The magazine Superinteressante has made games on drug trafficking and police investigations.


Social media provides a useful precedent here: even now large news groups continue to reform their social media teams, create new roles and hire new staff in order to better manage and monitor social platforms. Some are still trying to perfect their entire digital team.


[tweet]Gamification in journalism is in desperate need of such a group or for existing groups to set guidelines [/tweet]for these projects.




 7. Games are old news: the timeliness problem

cutthroat capitalism game wired

Wired’s Cutthroat Capitalism game allowed users to explore the ongoing issue of pirate attacks


News is time-sensitive: what was interesting last week is old news the next. But games can’t be made overnight, so projects need to either be:

  • Ongoing stories
  • Have significant public interest
  • Or have the potential to develop over time


Al Jazeera’s illegal fishing story for example is an ongoing problem of significant public interest. Many journalists will find most news stories cannot be gamified as they often do not fulfill the above requirements, if they do try to gamify a normal story nobody would be interested because the next big thing happened – exactly how trends work.



8. What is a game? Tradition and the fear factor


There are also those that quite simply hold on to tradition, perhaps based on the basic human fear of change. Juliana said:


 “You often have two groups of news gathers. You have one group that is really pushing boundaries and are really engaged where media is heading, such as Paul Bradshaw, and I think that group gets gamification immediately. Than you get one group that just doesn’t get it.”


Tradition seems to be one of the strangest reasons to avoid gamification – considering the field of news is all about reporting change.


Just like the news they handle, journalists need to continually be looking for the next big thing in their industry. Social media generated the same fear response some years ago, not helped by high-profile cases of unprofessional behaviour by journalists or even the occasional drunken picture making someone lose their job.


The positives clearly outweighed the negatives in the end. As Juliana bluntly puts it:


“[tweet]We, as ‘serious’ journalists, if we don’t move with it then the other side wins: the low-brow content will win. We have to adapt, so we don’t die[/tweet].”



The full interview with Juliana can be heard below:









Featured image: Al Jazeera’s gamified project’s symbol

Adding of case studies and some editing done by Paul Bradshaw


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