While surfing the web I came across an interesting concept. A group was putting together (indie) games to help people better understand the news and the world around them. I was so curious as to what the developers had to say that I contacted them and landed an interview with the creative director, Tomas.
Do you mind telling us a bit about yourself, Tomas?
I’m a games designer and I’ve been working in the industry for over a decade on games from PC to Dreamcast to PS3 to mobile. I’ve worked on known IP (such as Star Wars) and created new games from scratch (such as Savage Moon).
What is the Game The News project and how does that work?
The idea is to turn news and current affairs into games. I think that with some stories, covering it in the form of a game can bring the audience an extra understanding that they might not get from a more linear form of media. For example, Endgame:Syria puts you in the role of making the hard choices and allows you to explore events again and again to see the different possible outcomes. My Cotton Picking Life, by contrast, is there to expose the cruelty of child labor by letting the game communicate the monotony of the task.
Where’d the original concept come from?
I’d been taking part in game jams and realized that it was possible to make a game very quickly so it could be ready in time to respond to real events. While a big console project can take 2 years, ours is a very different development operation – Endgame:Syria took 2 weeks and My Cotton Picking Life, took 2 days or so to make. Also there is a myth, I feel, that gamers are insular and don’t care about the wider world. I think we do and so this project is about using our medium to add understanding to the wider world.
What do you use to make games?
Do you ever have trouble meshing the topic with fun gameplay?
I think it is possible to make any topic into a game. What is key is that we feel it offers something extra when done as a game so I have explored news stories and then abandoned the design as I didn’t feel it was working right. Fun is another question – we always want the games to engage but with a serious topic it might not be fun we’re looking to communicate. So games like CFBDSIR2149 Was Alone and Trick Rocket are about fun whereas Endgame:Syria is about exploration and engagement.
How do you go about choosing a topic?
We look though a wide range of news topics and bounce around ideas as to hope the game version adds something. We can go for a quick-blast of development or aim for a longer one. Currently I’m working on a game design that looks at the war on drugs. As well as reading around the topic we also talk to people who know about that area to get more insight – so we’re mixing development and journalism in our approach.
Do you have anything else to say?
I see what we’re doing as part of a wider movement to show how games have grown up. I still love and play more gamey-games (for example I’m very proud of our work on Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land) but also love the challenge of making games from ideas and concepts that don’t at first seem to be right to a game. Games have a lot to offer the world and we’re at the early stages of exploring how that will work. If people want to join us on the journey we’ve got a Facebook page and Twitter account.
Same to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathan. He prefers his last name not to be known. He’s probably a high-class superspy, but we don’t mind. He is a writer at Independent Gaming. He’s our point man for interviews, and occasionally he takes a blowtorch to a game to see whether it measures up to his standards.