After a busy week of teaching and shoveling out of more Midwest ice & snow, I'm finally catching up on my RSS feeds covering the GDC conference. I wrote earlier in the week on a couple educational focused sessions and some coverage on Nora Paul's mod of NeverWinter Nights. Some of the mainstream video game press covered the session about the University of Minnesota's journalism game.
Kotaku's Brain Crecente (who the game is named after) had a detailed write-up of the session and some more background of the game's history:
Christ Baker over at WIRED's Game|Life had another write-up, including some personal observations:
"The idea was to develop a game that would reinforce good reporting practices."
In the game, the players take on the role of a reporter (no, not me) who is covering an accident in which a train carrying anhydrous ammonia hits a truck and derails, forcing the evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood.
"We had to create the city...22 different characters," she said.
Students had to figure out what story angle they wanted to take, covering the health, public safety, transportation safety or environmental issues, before getting started. Once they figured that out that have to identify the important questions, collect the necessary background information, find the right sources and interview them, keep notes, and eventually return to the newsroom to write and file a story to the paper's website.
I look forward to reading more about the experience of creating the game and how the application works out. Last year, presentation slides and other materials were posted about a few weeks after the conference. So I'm hopeful that the session's slides will appear sometime in March.
Paul says that they were pleased with the result, though there were some bugs and bad design choices. Students didn't like that their avatar didn't have a cell phone, and needed to go back to the office every time they wanted to call a source and set up an interview. The sword and sorcery trappings of NWN were minimized, but still present. For instance, the editor character is built off an ogre-like NWN character type. (Some reporters who consulted on the game said that seemed entirely appropriate to them.)
Due to a programming bug, the ogre/editor will block the virtual Crecente's exit from the newspaper office, and the only way to leave is to do battle hand let him kill you.It looks kludgey and low tech, which Paul freely cops to. The team at the University of Minnesota are reworking the game on a newer engine. Still, the game seems like it has the potential to be a useful teaching tool.
Photo by Kotaku