December 2009 Archives
As well as its implementation of standard quiz game conventions, CNN Challenge takes on a more nuanced and intricate approach to online news trivia. Many of these subtleties were revealed in an interview with Kay Madati, current Vice President of Audience Experience at CNN. In our talk with him, we discussed the ways in which CNN Challenge is important on its own as a quiz game. More importantly, however, Madati explains how it fits into a larger, more complex structure that extends beyond notions of play. Instead, the game can be useful as a platform through which other purposes can be served within the CNN organization.
This excerpt appears in the upcoming Newsgames book.
As game scholar Espen Aarseth has observed, all games require "non-trivial effort" to play, as player interaction is required for a game to operate at all. But community games require a different kind of labor, one that involves even greater personal effort and investment, one that goes beyond manipulating tokens on a board or characters on-screen. In addition, these games ask players to put themselves on the line, in public, often in front of strangers. This is a type of community involvement that community activism rarely accomplishes, let alone local news.
So far, just one example of this kind of community game exists. Picture the Impossible, developed jointly by the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, is a game situated in a specific geographic location. The website describes the game's mission:
The game engages members of the community in exploration of the City of Rochester, and encourages both creativity and charitable giving in the community. Players participate in a range of activities, including casual web-based games, games that bring players out to events and locations throughout the city, and games that involve the tangible aspects of the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper itself.
Switzerland is pumping out more than just high quality chocolates and super-secret bank accounts these days. The resolutely independent central European nation has also stepped up its production of religious intolerance as evidenced by a recent national referendum banning the construction of minarets throughout the country. Similar to the hide-and-go-seek racism employed by the hijab haters of the French Republic, members of the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union whipped up anti-muslim sentiment in November by claiming that the offending architecture, which is only the most visible part of a larger mosque structure, was just the tip of the Islamic iceberg. Left unchecked, supporters claimed, Islam would loom as large on the political landscape as the Matterhorn over the Alps.
Into this hotbed of Alpine arrogance, Minarett Attack [sic] emerged online as a game firmly in support of the ban and its underlying logic of cultural overwhelm. The game comprises a single scene: a quaint mountain village that, based on the monuments depicted, is at least part Zurich and part Geneva. A small Swiss flag flies atop a distant mountain peak. The light oom-pah-pah of accordion music fills the air, while the entire scene is bathed in the soothing glow of an alpine sunrise.
(This post was prepared by Tanyoung Kim and Bobby Schweizer)
The iPhone has proven itself a viable platform for small game producers. Its technical capabilities serve most non-3D needs, it isn't overly complicated to develop for, and there is a plan for monetization that does not need to rely on the promises of advertising dollars. It should come as no surprise, then, that the kinds of Flash games we're all familiar with have moved onto a handheld device. This includes those that touch on hot-button issues and current events.
As one of the biggest events in the country in the couple of years, the government's bailout of the financial industry has made its way into ten iPhone games. There's Bailout Bandits, in which you play as the police capturing bankers floating down from a high rise with their golden parachutes. There's Bailout!, a spreadsheet-like financial simulation game. Bailout Ben has you piloting a helicopter, dropping money on bar charts to aid corporations in need. Bailout America is a Lemmings-style game. Bailout Bonanza is basically Activision's classic Kaboom.
Two games in particular, though, embrace a similar cartoon aesthetic whose roots can be traced back to the editorial cartoon.