call-of-duty-black-opsMichael Humphrey has an interesting blog post on Forbes where he posits the use of video games as a method of conveying current news and events. He points to the CEO of Activision comparing the Call of Duty franchise to Facebook, pointing out that media is evolving, and the latest CoD game has already racked up 600 million hours of play time in just six weeks.

And he talks about a new book called Newsgames: Journalism at Play that looks at the idea of combining gaming and journalism. While Humphrey is a bit critical of the way the book sometimes plays fast and loose with the concept of journalism, he suggests that there is a place for genuine old-school journalism to exist within computer games.

If games were to practice journalism as a discipline, and advertise itself as such, it would have to be very much the same kind of journalism that newspapers, television and journalistic Web pages offer. If not, then call it something else. But I think these standards can be applied in most entertaining ways.

Even though the game development process can take years, he suggests, if a game was developed based on an ongoing issue (such as the politics or warfare of a given area) then updating it to keep pace with current events could be much easier.

Indeed, this could be done with gaming systems that exist now. City of Heroes has an “architect” system that allows players to create their own missions or chains of missions, which they can do fairly quickly and easily. Other games, such as Star Trek Online, are implementing similar systems. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to imagine someone creating didactic missions incorporating references to the latest events in such a game. An entire game built from the ground up around these events could work even better.

Assuming that the fun factor of the game wasn’t sacrificed, the idea could also solve the problem that many people aren’t bothering to keep up with the news and end up uninformed and confused on important issues. Make “reading” the news fun, and you might just end up with a better-informed game-addicted public. And it would certainly provide some redeeming social value with which to defend video games from their critics!


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