A game designer speaks to how systems thinking can benefit journalism

Systems thinking is an approach to analysis, focusing on how different parts of a system relate to each other, and how they change over time and within the context of larger systems. That’s lot of words to process, but luckily Nicky Case has sketched up a great reflection on systems thinking in relation to journalism for those of us who may not be aware of the basics. You may recognize Case from their past work in describing how systems work through interactive simulations. After attending a two-day workshop on systems thinking for journalists, Case sketched up a blog post to explain the ideas further, particularly for…

1979 Revolution

1979 Revolution to explore the Black Friday Massacre this April

1979 Revolution, the adventure game series based on political events in Iran that year, will see its first episode released on April 5th. It’s something I’ve been waiting for since playing a demo of the game on an iPad at an exhibition titled “Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences” at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image in July last year. I had primarily attended the event for the short films the Museum was showing on Oculus Rift, but it was 1979 Revolution that impressed me the most. The demo I played followed fictional photojournalist Reza Shirazi as he covered…


Are You Well-Played?

It all started with that one spreadsheet: a trifle to amuse myself between bouts of frenzied editing and marathon writing sessions. It was called “the Database”—an inside joke shared by me and no one else—and it was my attempt at listing every videogame I had ever played in my life. At first, I thought it insurmountable; the kind of self-ordained project that I would sink a few careless hours into before cosigning to the same dustbin shared by my teenage projects. After all, I had spent most of my life playing videogames, or at least what felt like it. How…

the westport independent

The Westport Independent does*** ***** understand censorship

The Westport Independent is a game about journalism. And so, in the interests of good journalism, a full disclosure is in order: I was employed as an editor at a newspaper company in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post Group, from 2012-2015. This is important because The Westport Independent is, specifically, a game about the self-censoring of journalism. And the South China Morning Post is a frequent target for accusations of self-censorship due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve seen self-censorship happen and I’ve seen it been falsely accused. Point is, I know it when I see…


The Charlie Hebdo debate arrives in the videogame world

You’re not against free speech, are you? This interpretive trap awaits anyone attempting to publicly wrangle the legacy of Charlie Hebdo. In late April, the PEN American Center announced that its literary gala would honor the French satirical newspaper. In response, a series of authors including Junot Díaz and Joyce Carol Oates penned a letter arguing that PEN missed the distinction between “staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.” This furore goes back to January 7th, when two gunmen open fired in Charlie Hebdo’s office. Twelve people died in the attack. A further eleven were…


Westport Independent’s latest trailer hints at the corruptability of media

“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” –Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf The Westport Independent, a censorship simulator about the power of press, recently got a new trailer that crackles with the corruption of old timey propaganda. An announcer boasts of the Loyalist government’s soaring successes, spreading happiness to all “civilized” citizens of Westport. But by the end, the film implodes on itself, the simplistic world its propaganda spins going up in smoke along with it. The game casts you as the editor of…


Big Pharma combines pretty pastel color scheme with withering cynicism

British Developer Twice Encircled has announced Big Pharma, a game which puts you in the deeply conflicted shoes of a c-level suit at a pharmaceutical conglomerate. It follows the Tycoon playbook: soft, twee visual design over top a game of space and resource management. As in the canonical Kairosoft and Tycoon games, you’ll tirelessly work to minimize some numbers and maximize others, tweaking an optimal profit with nary a thought to the souls you employ. Big Pharma, obviously, takes it one step further: you’re not building railroads or videogames here but pills, which might cure diseases, make people happier, or give them back…