Category Archives: media coverage

GameTheNews to Join Europe‘s First Newsgames Hackathon

The New York Times’ most popular story of 2013 was not an article. It was an interactive quiz. The Times They Are A-Changin. Games as the defining medium of the 21st century are obviously starting to disrupt journalism.

In order to accelerate this process the independent game studio, the Good Evil and the Cologne Game Lab are organising Europe‘s first Newsgames Hackathon in Cologne, Germany this spring.

Journalists, programmers and game designers are invited to conceptualise and produce working prototypes in 48 hours. The results will then be presented during this years Clash of Realities, an international acclaimed computer game conference.

The young genre has already been tried out worldwide by innovative media companies like The New York Times, Huffington Post, Wired, BBC, Channel 4, The Guardian and Le Monde.

“In a clear distinction to classical linear approaches Newsgames allow the interactive experience of content and are very well suited to explain systems“, says Marcus Bösch. The german journalist and co-founder of the Good Evil is the Hackathon’s initiator.

For several years he has been busy exploring Newsgames. After having given workshops, talks and media appearances on the topic he, together with his game studio, has designed PRISM – The Game: Germany‘s very first Newsgame, published by Arte Future.

Now the Good Evil in cooperation with the Cologne Game Lab, an institute of the Cologne University of Applied Science, wants to bring together journalists, game designers and programmers on May 6th and 7th.  Dr. Tomas Rawlings from GameTheNews, shortlisted for a GamesIndustry.biz Innovation Award, will hold a keynote,“We see newsgames as a means of talking to gamers about the world around them in a language they understand. Games as a form has expanded and we’re seeing them being put to use for everything from curing cancer to teaching maths. When it comes to news and current affairs we’re right at the start of an exciting journey.“

Attendance to the event is free of charge. Anyone interested can apply online until March 20th: http://newsgames-hackathon.tumblr.com/applyhttp://newsgames-hackathon.tumblr.com/apply Participants from Austria or Switzerland can apply for a scholarship that covers travel and hotel costs thanks to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Forum Journalismus und Medien in Vienna. Deutsche Welle, Germany‘s international broadcaster is the main media partner of the event.

Newsgames Hackathon. May 6th and 7th in Cologne, Germany. The results will be presented during this years Clash of Realities Conference on May 8th.

Coverage:

Auroch Digital Shortlisted for GamesIndustry Innovation Award!

Auroch Digital’s Game the News project has been shortlisted for Innovation in Social Responsibility at GamesIndustry Innovation Awards! We’re incredibly honoured to be shortlisted amongst so many worthy and amazing projects. Here’s the full list of the category we’re in:

Gaming has always been about fun: bringing some goodness into the world via the medium of play. With this prize we hope to celebrate those companies who choose to give something back to their communities and society at large ­ either through direct work for charity (or by being a charity itself), making staff feel valued or the support of good causes with fundraising drives or sponsorship. With the mainstream press still happy to keep games at the front of the evil scapegoat folder, these are the initiatives which are fighting back.

DonateGames

Like any charity, DonateGames relies on the generosity of its patrons, but by focusing on the donation of unwanted games and hardware instead of cash, this group lets people clean their lofts and their consciences in one fell swoop.

HumbleBundle

What began as a way of garnering attention for indie titles whilst also giving to several charities, the Humble Bundle now attracts the world’s biggest publishers. By giving the customer the power over how much goes where, Humble Bundle has made its giving completely transparent and hugely popular.

GametheNews.net

Encouraging young people to take an interest in the world of current affairs isn’t easy, but Auroch Digital’s project has produced 15 educational short games which bring today’s key issues to the fore in a memorable and enjoyable fashion.

Special Effect

Special Effect changes lives. It might not have the scope of some of the projects here, but an incredible bespoke service and tremendous levels of engagement and after care have made it one of the industry’s most treasured and admired outfits.

RuneScape – Well of Goodwill Initiative

Proof that free-to-play can definitely be used for good, this in-game fundraiser from Jagex raised over $90,000 for good causes as players donated in-game funds equivalent to thousands of hours of effort.

GamesAid

Supporting a wide range of charities voted for members, GamesAid is never afraid to try something new to raise money. A constant calendar of events and interesting new activities keeps this charity at the forefront of industry minds year round – raising over £1 million for good causes in the process.

A special day for James – Total War: ROME II

A truly personal event dedicated to a single member of the Total War community, A special day for James helped realise the dreams of a terminally ill young man suffering from liver cancer, bringing together the studio’s staff and players for a cause which touched more than just one life.

Please vote for us here, if you think we deserve it of course!

Endgame Syria launched on Apple without reference to ‘Syria’, also updated on Android and Released on Facebook and PC

21st MARCH 2012, BRISTOL, UK: The controversial newsgame, Endgame Syria, has been updated on Android and released on two new platforms - PC and Facebook and yet the developer is still struggling to release the original title on Apple’s App Store.  After three rejections, the developer has had to not only remove references to specific groups that are part of the conflict, but  any reference to aswell as the actual word ‘Syria’ too.  As a result the much-amended version of Endgame:Syria has made it past Apple’s approval process as ‘Endgame:Eurasia‘.

The developer, GameTheNews.net’s Tomas Rawlings remarked, “We’ve come to the end of three rejections and one appeal and the only way we’ve been able to get Endgame:Syria out on iOS was to remove all references to the real world and sadly that changes it from a ‘newsgame’ into just a ‘game’.  We’ve released this game version so at least players with Apple devices can get a feel for what we originally intended for the platform.  We are of course disappointed to not be able to release the game and hope that our experience informs a wider debate about how games have matured into a form that would benefit from a reappraisal by some.”  To help players using the App Store version to get a feel for the original title they have released a conversion guide to explain how the wording of the game has had to be changed.  By contrast to Apple’s policy decision, Endgame:Syria has been recognized by Games For Change, one of the world’s leading exponents of how games can be used beyond play.

The updated version on Android and for PC adds newer events from the ongoing war including Scud Missile strikes and the enhanced fears over WMDs.  The game is free and available now from Google Play.  It is also free on PC and can be downloaded from Desura, GamersGate, IndieCity, Indievania, and GameJolt.

Endgame:Syria was launched last year and allows players to explore the difficulties and options open to the rebel side in the ongoing Syrian civil war. The game attracted wide coverage for not only its subject matter but how it was received by gaming and non-gaming audiences.  The developer, GameTheNews.net, has released a wide variety of games that explore current affairs from a commentary on the horse-meat scandal to covering science and technology news.

Endgame Syria to Eurasia

Endgame Syria to Eurasia

Card Changes in Endgame:Syria

Card Changes in Endgame:Syria

Some of the coverage of this release includes:

Endgame:Syria Becomes Global Talking-Point

Our GameTheNews.net project recently released what is, the world’s first game to cover an ongoing war as news.  This newly emergent form of media, ‘news games’ and our contribution to the form, ‘Endgame:Syria’, has seen a huge surge in interest and players following its rejection by Apple’s App Store (though it is online and on Android).  As a result GameTheNews.net and Endgame:Syria have become global talking-points, having recently been given extensive coverage by the BBC, the Economist, The Guardian, Venture Beat, The Daily Star (Lebanon) and Al-Jazeera to name but a few.  (There is a list of articles here and more on the reaction over at the designer’s personal blog.)  Below are two examples of the coverage, starting with an article on Foreign Policy:

Many people would be hard-pressed to find Syria on a map, let alone know the factions that are fighting and the outside nations that are backing them. A simple computer card game may not be deep, but when players ponder whether to play a “Saudi Support for the Rebels” or a “Rebels Assassinate Key Regime Leader” card, they are making decisions, and that is how humans learn best. Perhaps it will spur them to learn more current events, or if nothing else, they may remember a few names and places, and who is fighting who. At the least, they will learn a lot more than playing Angry Birds on an iPhone.

Wired made these key points on the discussion:

As gamers, we are generally happy to delve into historical battles such as World War II in Medal of Honor, despite the devastation, violence and death, and barely an eyelid was batted when the genre moved into modern warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan with its latter sequels. However, delving into an ongoing conflict, where tensions are extremely high and the subject matter sensitive, is another matter entirely. .. By addressing a current civil war and its multiple factions and infinite social complexities, Endgame: Syria is not giving us any answers — it’s encouraging us to ask more questions.

Try Endgame:Syria for yourself at GameTheNews.net!

The next newsgames to be released from GameTheNews are currently in development about the War on Drugs and Climate Change, coming soon!

Endgame:Syria screenshot

Endgame:Syria screenshot

Game Exposes Cruelty of Child Labor in Uzbekistan

BRISTOL, UK DECEMBER 18th, 2012: GameTheNews.net, the team turning news into games have released their latest offerings; ‘My Cotton Picking Life‘ a game about the cruelty of child labor in Uzbekistan. The game puts the player in the role of a cotton-picker in the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan, where vast amounts of men, women and children are forced into picking cotton for the enrichment of the regime and to supply cheap material that ends up on the shelves of western stores. The game’s designer, Tomas Rawlings remarked, “The game replicates the monotony of the work these children have to do – we challenge the player to see how long they can last as a cotton picker and point out that while they can quit at any time, those forced into doing this sort of work don’t have that luxury.” The game is free and available now on the Google Playstore and on their website at http://bit.ly/mycottonpickinglife

The game took only a day to create and continues the developers direction of making games that target difficult issues, their previous game being an exploration of the Syrian conflict titled, ‘Endgame Syria‘. Both projects were created using GameMaker Studio development technology. Game the News is supported by the University of Abertay Dundee’s Prototype Fund with additional help from the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol.

cottonpicker_screenshot1

-
Coverage:

GameTheNews Launches Endgame Syria

Our GameTheNews.net project looking at creating games from news an current affairs has launched with a game about the war in Syria, Endgame Syria.  Here is the press release:

New Game Explores War in Syria

BRISTOL, UK DECEMBER 13th, 2012: Games have been growing in force as a medium but still tend to be seen as pure entertainment. That perception is being challenged by a new release that explores the war in Syria in an interactive form, titled ‘Endgame Syria’. Developed as part of the new project GameTheNews.net, creators Auroch Digital are using rapid-game development methods to build games quickly in response to real-world events. Created in a development time of two weeks, the game allows users to explore the options open to the rebels as they push the conflict to its endgame. Each choice the user makes has consequences – the types of military units deployed, the political paths trodden. Not only does each choice impact the current situation but they also affect the final outcome. While the game was made rapidly, the developers report that even over the two weeks of development, they still had to change elements to reflect events happening in the real-world. “We wanted the events and actions in the game to mirror the real situation,” the game’s designer Tomas Rawlings explained, “So while creating this experience, we were also continually looking at the news and adding or removing components to keep the content current.” Endgame Syria is free to download.

Some may think that the choice of a game as a medium for this subject is questionable, but Tomas is adamant this is not the case, “As game developers, games are a natural way for us to express our thoughts on the world around us. Games don’t have to be frivolous or lightweight; they can and do take on serious issues and open them up to new audiences.”

Objections to the medium might be an issue of understanding the form, Tomas continues, “If the word ‘game’ is troubling then we’re happy for this to be called a ‘simulation’ or an ‘interactive experience’. For us, the point is that we’re using this medium as a means to express and explore the uncertainties of this situation. A game allows you to re-explore the same territory and see how different choices play out and understand that those choices have far-reaching consequences.”

The developers say that if this game brings the issues of the war to an audience who might otherwise not have engaged with it, then the risk of making something controversial rather than playing it safe will have been worthwhile. The game free to download for Android via Google Play and is available to play on the GameTheNews.net website as a HTML5 game and also due out on iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch imminently. Full details can be found at http://bit.ly/endgamesyria.

The project was created using GameMaker Studio development technology. Game the News is supported by the University of Abertay Dundee’s Prototype Fund with additional help from the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol.

We also launched with an article on GamesIndustry.biz looking at games, war and news:

By making Endgame Syria I hope that we’ve encouraged some people who didn’t know much about the situation in Syria, to find out more. After all, the chances are your taxes are going into this war in one form or another. We also hope that we’ve joined the ranks of other games that have been unafraid to take on serious subjects and cover them with sensitivity. If either of these are the case, then the risk of making something controversial rather than playing it safe and making games about shooting Nazis or grumpy avians will have been worthwhile.

Endgame Syria Screenshot

Endgame Syria Screenshot

Our Creative Director, Tomas has been looking at reactions to the game over on his blog.  We’ve also been getting coverage of the launch online:

Endgame: Syria is a neat little game that does not deserve being shackled to a small window in the browser. The game oozes quite some quality and is actually fun to play. Players familiar with card games like Magic: The Gathering should have no problems playing this game as the rules are very much simpler here.

The subject matter for Endgame: Syria should not however be looked on from a trivialized angle; people and civilian casualties are dying everyday over in Syria. Hopefully with this unique gamification approach, it will make more people aware of what is happening today in the beleaguered country of Syria.
Source: gameswarp.com

The iOS version of the game was rejected by Apple, which generated a lot of press interest in the project:

ExPlay 2012: What can games offer science and society?

There is a write-up on Edge of the recent ExPlay session that Auroch Digital’s Tomas Rawlings chaired:

It’s encouraging to hear from developers engaged with areas such as science and education who are so passionate about ‘traditional’ gaming values. The idea of closely aligning education with game goals – needing to know that copper conducts electricity in order to solve a puzzle, for example – is a simple, but powerful one.

The Games/Science/Society Panel at ExPlay (image by ExPlay UK)

Auroch Digital wants to say a huge thanks to the ExPlay people for making us feel so welcome and putting on such a great event!

The talk above happened the day before the games from the Wellcome Trust ExPlay games jam’s shortlisted game’s were showcased.

How We Evolve Fun

Tomas has a new article out on GamesIndustry.biz:

Inspired by Darwin, Tomas Rawlings asks whether incremental evolution of games will lead to a loss of innovation

Charles Darwin used to have a special route in his huge garden in Down House, Kent which he would methodically route around again and again. Walking helped him to think and he was thinking big; really big. He was pondering the diversity of life and trying to understand it. Why were there so many variations of animal such as the many types of finches? How could he account for the strange fossilised creatures he and others had been unearthing? It was a vexatious problem.

What he (and some of his peers) eventually developed was the then ground-breaking theory of evolution by natural selection. … But what has this got to with video games? These ideas will become more and more key to what we do. Let me explain…

Wellcome Trust ExPlay Games Jam a Huge Success!

The Wellcome Trust ExPlay game jam has happened and was, by all accounts, a huge success.  We’re still collating the games produced but over the 24 hours of the 2 sites the event ran at over 20 games have been produced – and the quality is very high!  It was expertly opened by Professor Bruce Hood – who gave the theme – Deception. Here’s a few images from the Bristol end of the event:

Prof Bruce Hood @ Wellcome Explay Game Jam 2012 Wellcome Explay Game Jam 2012 Prof Bruce Hood @ Wellcome Explay Game Jam 2012

It also got a good preview on RockPaperShotgun:

My home represents the ideal. I am a gamer, my wife is a scientist. And combined, our interests make us THE GREATEST COUPLE ON EARTH. (Except she hates games.) Presumably modelled on our union is this weekend’s game jam from the Wellcome Trust – a science-themed event called ExPlay 2012. (The same Wellcome Trust who are supporting this year’s Make Something Unreal, as it happens.) Taking place tomorrow and Saturday in Bristol and London, it aims to combine the hardcore explorative processes of game making with the mysterious magicks of science.

PS. There is a video of one of the games online. More to follow!

Science Game Jam Starts Soon

The joint ExPlay, Wellcome Trust, Science Museum, PM Studio games jam is due to start in few days, as the Huffington Post reports:

Not everyone can make a great video game – and even fewer can make one in less than 24 hours.

But that’s just what 120 games makers are going to try and do in a few weeks, at the 2012 ExPlay Games Jam, hosted by the Wellcome Trust, Science Museum and Pervasive Media Studios.

The Games Jam – held simultaneously in Bristol and London – will give participants 24 hours to make a brand new game on a specified theme.

And yes – it has to be playable.

A Game Jam in Bristol (photo by Jon Cooper)