The fourth “toolbox” webinar presented during the final conference of the PRACTICIES project was the serious game Newscraft developed by the University of Lille / Geriico research centre and the video game development studio Vertical. The presentation was given by Amandine Kervella, Aurélia Lamy and Céline Matuszak.
> Playing the role of a journalist to understand how online information works
In Newscraft, young players (14 years old minimum) play the role of a journalist in order to understand how information is produced by the media according to their editorial line and what they seek to convey and sell.
The game was specifically developed for the PRACTICIES project, which identified that educating young people in media literacy and critical thinking is key to building their resilience against radical and violent discourses.
> Four objectives
The game was developed according to four objectives:
1) create a serious game dedicated to media literacy, in particular with regards to current affairs;
2) base the game on the research conducted on young people’s practices in terms of current affairs news, on existing media education schemes, and on the young’s digital culture;
3) tackle the issue of conspiracy theories and fake news based on research, without limiting the scope of the game to these issues only;
4) give free access to the game on PC/Mac/Smartphone.
> How do young people consume information?
The game was built after a comprehensive state-of-the-art study on young people’s practices regarding current affairs news, which mixed quantitative and qualitative data. These surveys* show that young people trust information they receive through their peers on social media. Furthermore, they don’t have bad practices as such but neither are they all savvy in media and social media.
> A complete pedagogical kit
The game is aimed youngsters aged of a minimum of 14 years old: “Even though younger people do of course go online, surveys show that 14 is a pivotal age when teenagers start to really use the online space in an autonomous manner,” said the panellists.
The game has been designed primarily for use in an educational session, in particular to allow questions to be answered before and during the game and to be debated afterwards. This is why it is accompanied by a comprehensive (and richly illustrated) pedagogical kit for teachers, which includes information on media practices and how information is produced, thematic factsheets on the media coverage of key topics (social conflicts, international conflicts, women, Islam…), educational factsheets to be used before, during and after the game, a toolbox to lead the session in class, and finally a list of resources and references.
> Educational content: deciphering the information conveyed through texts and images
With the help of their teachers, players can understand how information is crafted and how all the texts and images produced by a media convey a message depending on the angle chosen for a title or a photograph, and the choice of stories to publish or not. They learn there is no “objective” information as such, but that media coverage can be honest or not.
> Interns in a newsroom
The player is an intern journalist for an online media. They can choose to join one of four newsrooms, each with their own editorial line, i.e. “the set of values and criteria that guide a newsroom when selecting the stories that will make it to the news and which ones to cover or not.”
Each player must publish stories (using text and images) for the media’s homepage. Their general objectives are to increase the audience by publishing a set number of articles each day and to uphold the reputation of the media through the quality of their articles. If they reach these objectives, the players are rewarded with a job offer, a promotion, or a pay rise.
For example, the players must publish a story on the government’s vaccination campaign. To illustrate it, they can choose one of three photos, each with an underlying message: a crying baby (the jab hurts); the Minister of Health as she receives a jab and smiles (nothing to worry about, we preach by example); the window of a pharmacy (this is a health issue).
But to really understand the game, the best is to practice yourself on the Newscraft website: https://newscraftseriousgame.com/
* Junior Connect (2017); Amey and Salerno (2015)