Exciting news: Ha’aretz (the Israeli newspaper) is featuring the game “Livni’s Coalition” on their site. It is the first in a series of games we will launch with them. The game is embedded on their pages: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1025853.html and linked to from their homepage as one of today’s top “stories.”

It is great to see “Play the News” integrated into traditional and respected media sources like Ha’aretz and we hope to announce more partners soon.

New Partner: World Net Daily

We are happy to announce that World Net Daily has made our First Debate game available to its online readers.  The game, which is going to be resolved on September 26th, allows players to express their opinion and cast their prediction around the winner of the debate and the issues presented (foreign affairs focus).  We already saw great traction, and are hoping to launch some more news games with WND around the US election and other topics in the following weeks.  Stay tuned.

Playing to the Masses

We have been lucky to have attracted significant publicity to our products.  Much of it is drawn from the fact that PeaceMaker and Play the News are inherently so different than the old-fashioned public perception of video games.  Politicians, parents and non-profits constantly deride the medium for being a “time waster,” “violent and shallow,” or even accuse it of being “a silent epidemic among our children” (Senator Clinton).  What would make a better feel-good story than a game about peace in the Middle East or Web games that connect people to headlines?

But such debates tend to be overly black and white.  I like this story in The Guardian, not only because it highlights us, but because it presents how much it’s not only about “shallow vs. deep” or “violent vs. peaceful,” but about a real passion to diversify the interactive audience and present new models to think about:

“Mainstream videogames may have all but conquered the 18-34 male demographic, and proven extremely pervasive throughout others, but their social stigma persists. One of the most obvious reasons for this – and one of the key points of the Byron Review (dfes.gov.uk/byronreview) – is the vast “generational gap” between gamers and non-gamers. Of course, this argument implies it’s just a matter of time before MP Keith Vaz sits down to a game of Grand Theft Auto VII, but Burak believes that before this can ever be achieved, we need to “dismantle the notion of the ‘gamer'”. “If you think about it,” he says, “you won’t call someone a ‘radio listener’, or ‘TV viewer’ – I mean, you might, but everyone is, right? Everyone is a filmgoer. This idea that people are ‘gamers’ is going to have to change. Everyone should be a gamer!”

As game developers and “gamers” shouldn’t we be happy that more people enjoy our medium?  When guests visit me I love getting the Wii out, creating a Mii for them and letting them wave the remote.  Especially for those who never tried it before – their eyes widen, their jaws drop and suddenly they realize that if they are not careful they could easily end up “gamers” themselves.

Sometimes PlayTheNews Becomes the News

On two separate occasions our news games were drawn into the event we had represented, when the real-life characters began paying attention to them.  How weird.

First case: a game we published with Read Write Web about Data Portability.  The founder of DP, Chris Saad, who is represented by a role in the game, played it and promised not to spoil the game since he “knows the answers”.

Second case: our recent game about BoingBoing and Violet Blue was posted and hosted by Violet Blue on her blog, open to comments by her audience.

Will we see future feedback loops?  Say Obama looking at our community predictions/opinions for his prospective VP?

Play the News: The Facebook App

We are excited to offer a new Facebook application for “Play the News”. Now you can challenge your friends and enjoy the games and features of “Play the News” on your social network. Facebook users can access the application at http://apps.facebook.com/playthenews

Upon adding the application, you can sync your PtN account to enjoy the best of both worlds. We hope you will like playing the news in this unique context, and invite your friends to join the growing community of news players.

Job Post: Web and Flash Designer/Developer

We are seeking an exceptionally talented Web and Flash designer/developer. The job is located in Pittsburgh, PA. We are looking for someone with a relevant background, preferably 2+ years of professional experience, and a strong portfolio to present.

– Design Flash interactions, from brainstorm and conceptual stage to full code implementation.
– Design Web pages and the front-end of our interactive platforms, emphasizing overall look and feel, usability and GUI.
– Drive the branding of the company and its products in online environments, print and marketing materials.
– Support in the creation of art and video assets for ImpactGames’ and media partners’ news games.

Required Skills:
– CSS and HTML
– Flash
– Adobe Photoshop
– Adobe Illustrator and/or In-Design
– Video editing software

We offer a competitive salary with health benefits. To apply send your resume, cover letter and portfolio asap to: co-founders (at) impactgames.com

Play the News: Reviews and Long Term Plans

Since the launch of our public beta, “Play the News” has received some interesting reviews on the Blogsphere. There were positive reviews; TransBuddha says “ImpactGames has figured out a way to combine my old D&D love with my obsession with the news”, while Josh on The Knight Center blog calls us: “an interesting offering for those interested in new ways to deliver and interact with the news”.

We also enjoyed the satire on The AV Club, according to them PtN “will make you kill puppies”. Broken Toys’ Scott Jennings, however, was highly critical by claiming we “essentially ha[ve] abdicated any responsibility for making a decision”, pointing out that we have created a framework for the community to voice its opinion without advocating our own opinions or assumptions.

Getting feedback is great, and the beauty of the Web is that we can keep expanding and improving the platform based on reviews and comments from players. Josh of the Knight Center phrases it more eloquently by saying: “It’s interesting that [Jennings] refers to this site as a “title,” making it more akin to a static game product that is done at some point than a website that evolves and changes over time”.

Josh argues we should introduce crowd sourcing to PtN as “an effective way to diffuse the unavoidable agenda setting nature of Play the News… Creating a system that allowed the crowd to assist in creating the content could greatly increase the number of stories offered.”

Funny he should mention that… Because hidden behind the front-end of PtN is an easy to use content creation tool. It enables us to publish polished experiences around a breaking story in only a day or two. Our focus now is reaching out to different media partners so they will create their own games using our editor. Aggregating all these “channels” on our site would allow for very interesting comparisons of the the issues illuminated by different content partners, while obviously adding richer and wider content.

We do plan to open PtN up to user-created games. At that point anyone could create whatever advocacy perspective they want through the information and the potential courses of action. We will need to seriously address moderation and copyright issues, but it is definitely a worthwhile expansion. From our perspective, it is a natural step in the evolution of PtN but not an immediate one. First, we would like to establish this new media format. Once the “News Game” format is established, we can support civic journalism and user-generated content. As Eric my partner commented on one of these blogs “for us this platform has just been born.”

ReadWriteWeb Partnership

This week we published our first news game with a media partner – ReadWriteWeb, one of the world’s leading tech Blogs. This is a first in a weekly series of tech games we are going to write together. With these partnerships, we aim to expand “Play the News” and the content we bring to the community. Our easy to use content editor enables us to continue to add different partners that can bring a range of content expertise and perspectives to the games. Please contact us if you are interested in such partnership.