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 ( – 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

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)

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.

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:

PlayTheNews is Now Live!

The closed beta is formally over and is now open to the public. During the closed beta period we had 340 members who provided us with invaluable feedback and showed outstanding participation. We plan to continue to improve, update, and introduce new features to the site in the future so keep your suggestions coming. We know there are many more things we could add to make the site even better but it’s time to push the fledging out of its nest.

If you (like us) are enjoying active participation in the news, and think others will too, please help us spread the word. Many of you have asked if you could share your log-in with others or could invite others into the community, and now is the time. We added a “Share This Game” feature, so just like a YouTube video, anyone can embed our Flash games into their personal blogs or websites, as well as link to them from popular social networking and news aggregation sites (e.g. Digg, Facebook, Google).

The site is free of charge to end-users. We are excited to let you know that two top-tier media partners are planning to launch PlayTheNews on their site in the following weeks bringing even more content to the community. As promised, we have added all registered users to our iPhone raffle. We will conduct the drawing in the following days, and one of you lucky participants will be contacted with the good news.

We want to thank the community again for the amazing feedback and participation. We hope you will continue to Play the News, keeping our community vibrant and engaged. Feel free to keep sending feedback to us directly. Due to the success of the forum, we’ve decided to leave it open for future comments.

The ImpactGames team

(Guest Post) How Do I Use PeaceMaker? by Dr. Stephen Sulzbacher

I use the “Peacemaker” game to help students in my graduate seminar understand the limits on actions of world leaders, and to teach how to see conflict from the viewpoint of the opponent and bystander. My course examines the contemporary use of violence by States and non-state agents.

Behavioral scientists and educators are trained to view conflict differently from soldiers or diplomats, so we learn to apply psychological principles to the analysis of terrorism and terrorist networks. We apply principles of conflict resolution to understanding global conflict, using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a primary example.

The course is structured around a “Peacemaker” lab each week, followed by a weekly lecture. My students work in teams to learn how to be effective consultants within governmental and non-governmental (NGO) agencies.

Call for Beta Testers!

In February we are launching a closed beta of our new online product: Play the News, imagine if you will Fantasy Sports meets the Evening News. As a player you can choose your role and participate in a variety of real events: domestic, global, serious news as well as softer issues and entertainment. You can gain a deeper understanding of the day’s headlines while voicing your opinion. You will be measured vs. reality as well as against the performance of other community members.

To make it a bit more interesting for those of you that choose to help us out we will be giving away an iPhone to one lucky participant. Just by signing up you have a chance to win. Perform well on the platform to raise your chances.

If you would like to take part and help us in shaping this unique product, please use the contact form. If possible and you feel verbose, we’d love to hear in 1-2 sentences who you are, and why you are interested to join. We apologize in advance if we can’t accommodate everyone, as it is a limited beta. In any case, your personal data is guaranteed and will not be used for any other purpose, not now and not in the future.