Gamification of News Stores – Innovation or Moral Panic?

The news and gaming. You would rarely see the two words associated with each other, however the two are becoming integrated in what could be the next big thing for journalism. With the decline of traditional newspapers and the shift towards digital media, new models of delivering news to the public are being explored in order to increase the levels of readership and user engagement.

Gamification defined by Conill (2014) is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-gaming environments, adding layers of game elements for the main purpose of improving user engagement.  In doing so, it is transforming online news into an engaging, social and fun activity.

But what makes gamification successful? Peters (2011) concludes that motivation is the key to success in gamification. He states that;

“by tracking readers’ success, news organisations provide a sense of progress. This, in turn, motivates readers to continue reading, commenting or performing whatever actions on the site that will contribute to their overall progress” (Peters 2011 pg. 1).

Further research into gamification revealed numerous examples of news relates games produced by global news outlets.

Al Jazeera released ‘Pirate Fishing’, an online game that puts players in the role of a journalist as he investigates an illegal fishing trade. The game was designed to give players a more in-depth look at the process of investigating big stories, which is often difficult and rarely glamorous.

Des Moines Register has also taken a stab at interactivity. They created ‘Harvest of Change’, an interactive game that uses an immersive 360-degree format to tell a story about how Iowa farmers are dealing with demographic, economic and environmental changes.

Finally the BBC has also embraced gamification in their latest project titled ‘Syrian Journey’. The game’s aim is to bring the audience closer to the difficulty Syrian refugee’s face in an interactive and creative way.

Despite this surge of gamification there is also criticism surrounding why gamification isn’t becoming a larger part of journalism and gamification itself. Criticism of gaming is still rife in journalism, particularly with moral panic still being associated with games and video gaming. Criticism also surrounds journalists who create games particularly by the public who are concerned about the image of professionalism and the fact there are no set guidelines surrounding games. Despite these problems the main criticism lies in the resources used and tastefulness of journalism (Alessandro 2014).

Journalists work on limited resources particularly money and time. Stories must be produced quickly and cheaply, creating a game is contradictory to this. A game requires dedication, time and specific skills. Due to the fact that gamification is so new to the scene there is no guide or template to speed up the creation process therefore gamification is often left out (Alessandro 2014). Journalists are also required to be objective-less and tasteful when creating news stories. Along with resources this is the main reason why the majority of stories are not gamified. Tragic or conflicting stories, take for example sex trafficking would make a tasteless game, not to mention the public backlash and loss of integrity the journalist could face in creating such a story (Alessandro 2014).

To conclude the introduction of gamification into the newsroom I believe is a step in the right direction especially in attracting a younger audience and being able to hold audiences attention for longer. However due to gamification still being in the introduction phase it will take a couple more years of trial and error by major news corporation until it becomes a staple part of journalism.


Additional Information:

Reference List

Bilton R 2014, ‘On the hunt for attention, media outlets gamify the news’, Digiday, accessed 12th November 2016, <>

Bradshaw P 2014, ‘3 reasons why journalists are wary of gamification: an interview with Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus’, weblog post, 14 November, accessed 11th November 2016, <>

Conill R 2014, ‘The gamification of news: Towards a new framework for researching game mechanics in journalism’, ECC ECREA Conference Paper, Vol. 1, No. 1

Lester P 2014, Digital Innovations for Mass Communications: Engaging the User, Routledge, New York

Peters M 2011, ‘How Gamification Can Make News Sites More Engaging’, Mashable, accessed 11th November 2016, <>

Quigley R 2011, ‘The ‘gamification’ of news, and how it can be relevant’, Old Media New Tricks, accessed 12th November 2016, <>



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