By Andrew Humphrey, CBM
Founder & Co-Chair, DJTF
NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force (DJTF) held a wonderful webinar last Thursday dedicated to journalism and video games. I was happy to host Video Games – The New Frontier Of Storytelling which featured digital journalist and self-professed media junkie Latoya Peterson (right).
Attendance was amazing! Over half of the registrants who promised to attend did so. Twenty-nine was the peak number of attendees and attendee levels remained above seventy-five percent for the entire one and a half hour session.
The fact that we were able to attract and retain a high level of attendance for ninety minutes speaks to the value of DJTF’s webinar content and, especially, the capability of our main presenter Ms. Peterson. Three quarters or more of the audience never used video games or virtual reality for storytelling nor news gathering. She spent the first portion of her presentation explaining the large population and demographics of video game users (gamers) and introducing the viewers to the latest online video games and alternate reality sites used to tell stories.
DarfurIsDying.com is one stand-out example Latoya mentioned to help keep the audience’s attention. It is a web site dedicated to informing the world about the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region by playing a game. The user can choose the profile of a Darfurian man, woman or child. The object is to run through the desert and find water while avoiding death or capture by the Janjuweed, who have AK-47’s atop 4-wheel drive trucks patrolling the landscape. If you are captured, a news fact about the atrocities happening to adults, boys and girls is displayed prominently on the screen. The user also has the opportunity to maneuver their character through a refugee camp. The object is to collect water, find food, stay healthy and build shelter while living in fear and amidst war. All the while, additional news and information about the North Central African human disaster is communicated to the player.
The spectators of the DJTF video game-journalism webinar were responsible for the session’s success because they became perfect participants by asking terrific, intriguing questions. They led to Latoya revealing some of her most treasured resources to keep up with the latest information and updates on the gaming community’s impact on news. Two include Persuasive Games and Games For Change.
Latoya provided key insight on the opportunities for journalists of color in the burgeoning union between games and storytelling. She said many games are either emphatically in denial about the under-representation of ethnic minorities in gaming (which is based in science, engineering and technology) or openly unaware of it and eager to change it. The one fact that became abundantly clear and voiced during the webinar is that video games and virtual realms are the new method of reaching news viewers and the chances for success are huge.