the transition to digital journalism
Another effective way of increasing participation in and time spent at an online news site is adding news-related games.
Games by definition are more engaging for people, and well designed games can lead people to spend hours of their time playing them online. Games are particularly popular with young people, an age group many news organizations are struggling to attract as readers or viewers.
On the general popularity of video games, see the Entertainment Software Association's Industry Facts section of its website.
Many news organizations have experimented with adding games to their websites.
One of the early classics was MSNBC.com's baggage screening game that showed people what it was like to screen baggage at airport security checkpoints.
The Gotham Gazette has developed numerous online games on public policy issues.
The New York Times in 2010 created a Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget that people can play with to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Ian Bogost, game designer and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is developing the Cartoonist, a tool for quickly generating news video games.
See the research done by Nora Paul and Kathleen Hansen at the University of Minnesota on the effectiveness of online news games.
For more examples of online games developed by news organizations, see this list.
Games can be kept very simple and thus require little development time, and still be very popular. See for example the Guess Where SF game people created on Flickr, in which photos are posted and people are asked to try to identify them.
The Berkeleyside local news blog regularly posts a Where in Berkeley? feature inviting people to ID the place depicted in a photo. Another California local news blog, claycord.com, asked people to help identify a wild bird, prompting 87 responses.
Other games are much more complex and create virtual worlds people can explore together online.
At the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism we developed Remembering 7th Street, an online virtual world and video game that re-created Oakland's 7th Street blues and jazz club scene from the 1940s and 1950s so people could experience this important part of the city's cultural heritage.
Readings and Resources
Online news games are fun (and informative!) - Mark Luckie, 10,000 Words, 5/7/2008
News-Focused Game Playing: Is It a Good Way to Engage People in an Issue? - Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansen, Nieman Reports, Summer 2010
How Immersive Journalism, Games Can Increase Engagement - MediaShift, 7/7/2010