You’re in New York City. You’re standing on the corner of Nostrand and Atlantic in Brooklyn, when you notice a woman’s body convulsing on the side walk. As you rush over, the manic jerking ceases and the fragile gait lets out a deep groan.

A heart attack.

To save her, you must get her to the nearest hospital.

Time is ticking.

En route to Bellevue hospital, other decrepit bodies and raspy voices call out from the sidewalk, desperate for your attention.


Some will live, some will die.


As you approach the hospital, the side walk becomes increasingly cluttered with groaning figures.


Soon the bodies are appearing faster than you can save them.


Just as you turn the final corner…


“You saved 6 out of 31 lives. Better luck next time.”

Heart Saver Game Source:

This is HeartSaver, a game built by developers and journalists from ProPublica at the Global Editors Network in New York in 2013 (Wei, Zamora, & Shaw, 2013). Using data from the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the game emphasises the importance of
immediate treatment for heart attack survival (Wei, Zamora, & Shaw, 2013).

Welcome to Gaming

Games are not a recent introduction to journalism- Sunday crosswords have long been a print trademark. However, with the growth of virtual reality, the global gaming industry is readily becoming “the forefront of many of the most significant innovations in new media“ (Flew, 2014).

The term virtual reality was first introduced in the 1990s as “a stimulated environment, or a digital social space, typically in opposition to the real” (Brey, 2014).   Today, ‘the virtual’ is more specific in its reference to computer games with fully immersive environments, such as simulation games (Flew, 2014). Whilst in 2016 alone, $5.1billion was spent on virtual reality gaming hardware, accessories and software, the significance of this industry extends beyond economic terms, notably with the introduction of gamification (Statista, 2017).

Level Selected: Gamification

Gamification is the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in non-gaming contexts (Escribano, 2012).  This model is increasing in popularity and it is estimated that 70% of the world’s top 2000 organisations’ have produced a gamified application (Bittner & Schipper, 2014). Such platforms typically incentivize with points, badges and leaderboards to reward player behaviour, increase public awareness and motivate the audience to translate these desire behaviours into reality. (Harwood & Garry, 2015) (Bittner & Schipper, 2014).

Player Selected: Journalist

Gamification allows journalists to maintain their role of informing the public, whilst conveying information in an engaging manner that informs readers in a way they remember and understand (Ehrlich & Saltzman, 2015) (Conill & Karlsson, 2016). The need for interactivity is recognised in the below TED talk by Gabe Zicherman, as he reflects that a  generational media habit shift has formed a disconnect between the public and traditional formats of news distribution (Reese & Lee, 2012) (Zichermann, 2014). However, this disconnect is overcome by transporting individuals to another reality which enables their  engagement with a stimulating environment, whilst simultaneously intensifying their real world awareness (Conill & Karlsson, 2016). Thus, the dying journalist receives a new life and may continue playing.

Level UP

In the ever competitive environment of media convergence, journalists are no longer just competing against other journalists. They’re competing with Candy Crush, Tetris, or any other app the audience may select upon opening their phone (Roberts & Emmons, 2016).

Digital Natives Source:

If news organisations are not producing interactive content, they fail to gain the attention of digital natives, who are accustomed to the omnipresence of stimulating networked technologies (Conill & Karlsson, 2016). Gamification also maintains audiences for extended periods of time as the experience fosters autonomy and mastery, concepts that the self-determination theory depicts as the igniters of intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000).  Thus, the promotion of regular news consumption through gamification allows journalists to extend their audience and ‘level up’ in their professional position.

Level DOWN

Recently, a War simulation entitled Endgame: Syria was developed to put players in control of the rebel forces by allowing the pursuit of different military and political objectives (Stuart, 2016). However, the game was rejected for inclusion on the iPhone App Store on the basis of “trivialising a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation” (Stuart, 2016). Such trivialisation was viewed as a caveat that journalistic gamification has the potential to undermine the significance of real-life events (Shepard & Hamilton, 2016). In response, suggestion was made that “journalism gamification needs a certain distance from mainstream discourse” (Stuart, 2016). This required distance is comprised of employing gamification within an ethical paradigm comprised of rules, regulations and standards to maintain an ethical benchmark (Shepard & Hamilton, 2016). The utalisation of such a paradigm would negotiate public awareness through interactivity and respect for the reality of these news events, thus allowing for the successful implementation of journalistic gamification.

Level Complete

As with any game, the success of journalistic gamification has a list of rules and without these, the game no longer makes sense. Gamification is not about trivialising real life events or undermining the importance of significant issues. Instead, gamification is about ensuring public awareness and equipping the community with skills to navigate as informed, individual players.


Works Cited

A Social Spectator. (2016, April 19). A Social Spectator. Retrieved March 01, 2017, from WordPress:

Bittner, J. V., & Schipper, J. (2014). Motivational Effects and Age Differences of Gamification in Product Advertising. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 31(5), 391 – 400.

Brey, P. (2014). The Physical and Social Reality of Virtual Worlds. The Oford Handbook of Virtuality , 42 – 54.

Conboy, M. (2010). The paradoxes of journalism history. Historical journal of film, radio and television, 30(3), 411 – 420 .

Conill, R. F., & Karlsson, M. (2016). The Gamification of Journalism. IGI Global , Information Science Reference. Information Science Reference.

Ehrlich, M. C., & Saltzman, J. (2015). Hereos and Scoundrels: The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture (Vol. 1). University of Illinois Press.

Escribano, F. (2012). Gamification as the post-modern phalanstere: Is gamification playing with us or are we playing with Gamification. The Video Game Industry: Formation, Present State, and Future, 198 – 217.

Flew, T. (2014). New Media. Oxford.

Harwood, T., & Garry, T. (2015). An INvestigation into gamification as a customer engagement experience environment. Journal of Services Marketing, 29(6), 533 – 546.

ProPublica Projects. (2013, April 22). HeartSaver. Retrieved March 01, 2017, from ProPublica:

Reese, S. D., & Lee, J. K. (2012). Understanding the content of news media. The Sage Handbook of Political Communication.

Roberts, C., & Emmons, B. (2016, March). Twitter in the Press Box: How a New Technology Affects Game-Day Routines of Print Focused Sports Journalists. International Journal of Sport Communication, 9(1), 97 – 115.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000, January ). Self-Determination Theory and the Faciliation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development and Well Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68 – 78 .

Shepard, L. J., & Hamilton, C. (2016). Understanding Popular Culture and World Politics in the Digital Age . Routledge.

Statista. (2017). Virtual Reality – Statistics and Facts. Statista, Virtual Reality (VR) . Statista.

Stuart, K. (2016). News as Games: Immoral or the future of interactive journalism? The Guardian, Games Blog. The Guardian.

Wei, S., Zamora, A., & Shaw, A. (2013, April 23). HeartSaver: Experimenting with News Games to Tell a Story . Retrieved March 04, 2017, from Pro Publica:

Wikipedia. (2017, February 09). Digital Native. Retrieved March 01, 2017, from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia. (2017, March 07). Gamification. Retrieved March 07, 2017, from Wikipedia:

Zichermann, G. (2014, April 30). Engaging millennials with gamification: Gabe Zichermann at TEDxBroadway. TEDxTalks. YouTube.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s