Tanja Välisalo: Developing Newsgames with Students

Title screen and user interface of The Operation Center, a newsgame developed as part of the research project

Written by Tanja Välisalo, Lecturer at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. This post is a part of an ongoing blog series by members and alumni of the CoE. See the full list of published posts and the introduction to the series.

Newsgames as a digital media phenomenon has emerged in the cross-section of journalism and games during the 2000s. CoE researchers Marko Siitonen, Jukka Varsaluoma, and Tanja Välisalo, together with their colleagues Panu Uotila and Turo Uskali, explored the possibilities and challenges of games as a medium for journalism by creating a project course on newsgames. Having students of journalism and computer science from the University of Jyväskylä work together in multidisciplinary teams gave immediate insight into the design, development and publication of newsgames. Student teams created newsgames that were all published by a partner organization, most of them by Keskisuomalainen, the largest regional newspaper.

In a new article published in Nordicom Review our researchers share insights from the process based on the finished newsgames and their accompanying news articles, students’ self-assessments, feedback, other documents created during the course, as well as teachers’ observations. Most important learning outcomes for students were related to communication and team work. The importance of expressing one’s own views clearly were highlighted in a multidisciplinary team, but also the need for constant communication and the importance of an existing team leader for project success were emphasized. More surprisingly, co-teaching had unexpected benefits for teachers offering peer support, as well as professional development in pedagogical skills and knowledge.

From game studies and game education perspective it is noteworthy that defining newsgames is a necessary part in the process of creating them and one that demands a lot of time and discussions. Balancing between journalistic aims and ludic affordances as well as the views and opinions of different stakeholders, such as publishers and individual news sources, is also a subject of constant negotiation.

The article is available online as open access:

Siitonen, M., Uotila, P., Uskali, T., Varsaluoma, J., & Välisalo, T. (2019). A Pilot Study on Developing Newsgames in Collaboration between Journalism and Computer Science Students, Nordicom Review, 40(2), 143-155. doi: https://doi.org/10.2478/nor-2019-0038