Cultural Milestone: New York Times to Carry Newsgames

Games are often in the news, but now, they are the news.

In a landmark development, Georgia Tech prof Ian Bogost, founder of Persuasive Games, announced yesterday that the New York Times will henceforth carry his company’s “newsgames” as part of their editorial content:

I’m excited to announce that Persuasive Games has a new publishing relationship with The New York Times, in which they will be publishing newsgames we create on their op-ed page, as editorial content, not just as games. This is unprecedented, and… represents another important shift in videogames as a medium. This is news/editorial in videogame form, rather than videogames trying to make news fun.

The first NYT offering is Food Import Folly, a game which dramatizes the challenges faced by inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of our food supply.

At present the Persuasive Games offerings are available only to paid subscribers the newspaper’s TimesSelect service.

GP: In gaming terms it’s not exactly the Halo 3 launch, but in the long run the marriage of games and mainstream journalism could have a significant cultural impact. Hats off to Ian Bogost and the Persuasive Games team!

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    […] World of Borecraft Ever since video games were invented, parents and teachers have been trying to make them boring. Any child of the 1980s and 1990s will remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and Math Blaster Mystery: The Great Brain Robbery, games that promised to make skills acquisition fun. They’ll also remember ditching Mavis Beacon for something with guns as soon as their parents’ backs were turned. Making games educational is like dumping Velveeta on broccoli. Liberal deployment of the word blaster can’t hide the fact that you’re choking down something that’s supposed to be good for you. With video games starting to eclipse movies in revenues and popularity, the educational-gaming movement has gone into overdrive. Industry bigwigs and civic-minded intellectuals are increasingly peddling the idea that video games can cure society’s ills. There’s a booming subgenre of games, like the Nintendo DS title Brain Age, that claim to stave off senility via simple puzzles and arithmetic problems. A Harper’s cover story last year asked whether video games were the best way to teach kids to read. (Short answer: maybe.) There’s even a D.C.-based group called the Serious Games Initiative that advocates for "a new series of policy education, exploration, and management tools utilizing state of the art computer game designs." Take that, Reader Rabbit! All of these ideas are premised on the notion that video games can and should be more than mindless fun. But all of this noodling about games’ untapped potential raises some philosophical questions: When does a game stop being a game and turn into an assignment? Can a game still be called a game if it isn’t any fun? The company Persuasive Games makes for an interesting case study. Persuasive has gotten a lot of press due to its recent collaboration with the New York Times on "newsgames." Persuasive’s releases are essentially the Blaster series for the new millennium but geared toward adults instead of children with overprotective parents. Cartoonish and uncomplicated, with graphics reminiscent of old, 16-bit gaming systems, these games generally play like Sims expansion packs that were too boring to be released. Persuasive’s first game for the Times, Food Import Folly (TimesSelect subscription required), is a rousing examination of the ins and outs of FDA import inspection. Newsgames are an interesting idea, but this one is less informative than a simple article and less fun than doing the Jumble. Food Import Folly didn’t make me think long and hard about FDA policy

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    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Booooo, you need a Times subscription to play. And the “free demo” requires CC info. :(

    Still, it’s good that games are becoming more and more mainstream that they are now considered a valid form of “editorial” content…

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    Doctor Proctor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Serious Comment: This is indeed an impressive event. Perhaps media partnerships with videogame companies, no matter how far removed from the “industry” they are, will allow them to get a better understanding of what goes on in our world. It would be nice to see fewer news stories with a glaring ignorance of even the most basic working of the game industry.

    Non-Serious Comment: What are the games for even lite VT and the Thailand shootings going to look like? Are we going to see corporate version of Super Columbine RPG?

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    Blitz Fitness ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow, that is huge. The only thing I’m wondering about is mainstream saturation. Afterall, is this something that can be picked up by other news corporations or is this something that can only be specially licensed?

    Either way, is it too late to award Prof. Bogost with a “Gamer of Century” award?

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    Zoness says:


    I think a more general acceptance of games (which is what I think this represents) is a good thing.

    I do not, however, like the idea of a total mainstream adoption of the gaming world. It’s like listening to underground types of music, if cooperations eat them all up suddenly it becomes trashed and the audience disappears. We don’t want that. That is obviously an extreme situation but something I think could happen nonetheless.

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    timmyjoe012345 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I do not, however, like the idea of a total mainstream adoption of the gaming world. It’s like listening to underground types of music, if cooperations eat them all up suddenly it becomes trashed and the audience disappears.”

    That’s more likely to happen to individual genres in gaming just like it happens to individual genres in music. I think it could very well happen to GTA like games. All of the horrible GTA clones being released could very well, and has in my opinion, saturate the market and anger the audience.

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    The wombat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Responding to Zoness, I see this more as a presentation of the media of music to people who have only heard descriptions of it. If this allows more people to become comfortable with games, then hooray! I used Windows Solitaire years ago to make technophobic office people comfortable with their new pc’s, it demystified the whole thing for them and made it familiar. Games for many people are like that, and they will need a nice fuzzy intro to the medium. Yay for Ian Bogost and his crusade to bring games to those who are scared or ignorant of them.

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