Tabloid Gaming

With more and more Flash-based casual newsgames popping up on specially designed websites the nature of these games varies greatly. To stop the confusion and differentiate games like Game Show Network's The Prison Life: Paris from serious editorial efforts such as September 12 Zach Whalen over at Gameology introduced the newsgame subcategory tabloid game.Writes Zach:

GSN's goal isn't to offend or be provocative, however, or even to educate us about what happened. Rather, this game is news in the way that Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood is news -- something did actually happen, but the angle for covering it is fluffy with a hint of derision. I think GSN's games should still be considered news games, but perhaps its appropriate to think of them as a subset thereof. Let's call it "tabloid gaming." Not only do most of these GSN games rely on celebrities and sex, but like tabloid news, they also revolve around a hook or punchline and are more concerned with framing a reaction to something having happened rather than reporting what actually did happen. So even though these games aren't all individually impressive or interesting, I think if we take them as the same kind of rhetoric that tabloid journalism produces, we can agree that they are generally rhetorically effective. I guess I've had mixed feelings about them, though, because when I think of newsgaming, I want it to be on important topics that I care about. I want to play a game and then feel informed, persuaded, or even motivated. I want newsgames to be Frontline, not Inside Edition.

Although Ian Bogost has a point when he writes that that the examples of good newsgames we have seen thusfar editorialize more than they report Zach makes a necessary distinction to tell the different categories apart. Also I can see where's coming from when he talks about having mixed feelings about the tabloid approach. But I guess in a world where entertainment is sold as news and untalented Hollywood crackwhores accordingly get more attention than the erosion of civil liberties that development was probably inevitable. And now that serious gaming finally reaches the mainstream it would be a shame if it suffered an image drawback by being associated with this sort of games, so by introducing new subcategories it's possible to take countermeasures.-Jens