PTN Wins the Knight Foundation Award for News Gaming

We are very honored that Play The News won the First Knight News Game Award.  The winner was announced at the Games for Change Annual Festival last week.  According to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation the award “honors the best of this exciting new genre: games which are journalistic and strengthen people’s ability to make decisions in a democracy.”  You can read the full press release here.

We really hope that this great recognition will support our current effort in finding new educational partners and venues for the use of the platform.  The other finalists who were honored at the event are the Budget Maze by the Gotham Gazette, Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City by Global Kids and September 12th, the iconic news game created by Gonzalo Frasca and his team that many attribute to coining the phrase “newsgaming”.

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.”

Sharing News Games

As mentioned in the previous post, we just introduced this feature. Below each game on the Play the News portal you will find a section called “Share This Game”. You may post any game to your website or blog using the iframe embed tag. For embedding the game, please note: because they have fixed dimensions of 600 x 450, you may need to adjust your website or blog’s width to accommodate a more pleasing layout. Here is a sample for the PA Democratic Primary:

Protest against Violent Video Games

An interesting report coming from CBS-Portland around the holidays. The video shows a small crowd standing in front of Toys ‘R Us, demonstrating against violent video games and offering alternatives- games that promote non-violence and are socially or politically conscious. You can actually see the list of these games on the demonstrators’ signs. I swear we had nothing to do with that…

Press Release: 100,000 Israelis & Palestinians to Play PeaceMaker

The Peres Center for Peace Partners with ImpactGames to Distribute 100,000 Free PeaceMaker Video Games in the Mideast

Pittsburgh and Tel Aviv, November 21, 2007 — With the Mideast Peace Summit in Annapolis, Maryland just days away, 100,000 Israelis and Palestinians living in the actual conflict zone are about to try their hands at solving the peace puzzle—one game at a time. In an unprecedented giveaway, the Peres Center for Peace is distributing 100,000 free copies of the interactive game PeaceMaker to people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

PeaceMaker is an award-winning interactive game that allows players to get inside the unpredictable politics of peace, discovering firsthand the huge challenges of leading a country, a people, and an international process. PeaceMaker players must choose to play either as the Israeli Prime Minister or Palestinian President. In the course of a typical game, players encounter real-life incidents affecting the Mideast, from protests and political pressures to violent acts, and the player must decide what to do next in order to achieve a virtual peace.

Approximately 75,000 copies will be sent to subscribers of the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz on November 27, with 10,000 copies of the game distributed through the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds. An additional 15,000 copies of PeaceMaker will be distributed to Palestinian and Israeli high school classrooms and taught by specially trained teachers in the coming months.

“Since we first got the idea for PeaceMaker, it has been our hope to put this game in the hands of people who live with the real conflict every day, so they can play as the other side. With this game, the people can succeed where politicians and leaders have failed until now–bringing peace to the Middle-East,” says Asi Burak, co-founder of ImpactGames. “We are so grateful to the Peres Center; their high reputation, educational expertise and outreach to community groups in Israel and Palestine made this project possible.”

“It’s significant that the PeaceMaker giveaway in the Mideast is happening around the peace summit, but also at a time of year when millions of Westerners begin their holiday shopping by purchasing games where war, violence and conflict are central points of the game. To win at PeaceMaker, you have to cooperate with the other side and reach an understanding; you must challenge any prior knowledge or assumptions you have about the Mideast conflict,” says Eric Brown, CEO of ImpactGames.

Leading a new breed of games that are based on current events, PeaceMaker was created by a former Israeli Army Intelligence Corps captain, Asi Burak, and American Eric Brown, who met at Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious Entertainment Technology program. They created PeaceMaker with a panel of Palestinian and Israeli consultants and launched the game earlier this year. PeaceMaker is the first in a line of news-oriented games the Pittsburgh-based company is developing and is available in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

PeaceMaker in the Classroom

Fall semester 2007 is on its way and many teachers have begun using the PeaceMaker game in their classroom or in community events. Following multiple inquiries we wanted to address this audience specifically. We feel that the success of PeaceMaker as a new teaching tool depends a lot on the teachers’ feedback and we intend to take it seriously.

We have added a check box to our contact form titled “Educational Sales”. Although we currently do not support site license we offer different solutions for school labs. Please feel free to contact us and we will be glad to assist you via email or phone. For specific technical inquiries, have your IT administrator contact our support team and we will make sure to work with the configuration and policies of your network. After working with various schools we gained experience in dealing with specific firewall and/or strict proxy settings as well as different license distribution techniques.

We would also love to know your thoughts on “How I Used PeaceMaker in My Class”. Feel free to comment on this post and share your experience with others and with us.

FaceMaker on PeaceBook

Around our launch last February we started a FaceBook group called “I Wanna be a PeaceMaker“. It was a small step, but PeaceMaker officially has its own social corner on FaceBook. We started the group to help spread the word about the release of our game and have since taken quite a liking to the online and community space… You can be sure we’ll have more to unveil in the coming months, but for now it’s open for your comments and suggestions. So, please add us to your groups and feel free to invite your friends.

Upcoming Events for PeaceMaker

I wanted to mention two events we are participating in. Next week I will attend the iEarn national conference in NYC (Match 23th-24th). iEARN, our good friends, will host young adults from Ireland, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Cameroon, UK, Israel and the US to participate in discussions. Other attendees include former Vice President Al Gore and NBC’ Tim Russert. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will address the issue of technology in education, and is scheduled to speak on Friday, March 23, 1-2 pm.

Eric Brown, my dear partner, will attend the Skoll Forum in Oxford, England (March 27th-29th). The forum is the leading international event on social entrepreneurship that attracts every year around 700 social entrepreneurs, thought leaders, policy makers, corporate representatives, financiers and philanthropists from more than 40 countries. We were kindly invited to present as finalists of the Ashoka peace contest. Key note speakers include Jeff Skoll himself, Muhammad Yunus – the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate – and Dr. Larry Brilliant the Executive Director of Google.org.

PeaceMaker around the Globe

I thought it might be interesting to list the countries that have already experienced the PeaceMaker game: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

We are proud of our international appeal. People expressed to us that the only limiting factor is our ability to translate the game into more languages and the addition of more international payment methods. Be sure that we are working on those tasks as quickly as possible so we can expand the community of PeaceMakers.