Journalists in Games

What do journalists-playable characters in games do? Well, they don’t exactly write stories.The Communication, Media, Society journal published by my department asked for a contribution to the journalism-themed issue. It was written in Czech, but the English abstract follows.

Being a fan of Beyond Good & Evil and having recently discovered the 1990 Czech hypertext adventure game …a to snad ne?!  (…what the heck?!), whose first part takes place in a newspaper office, I decided to write a short overview of the role of journalism and journalists in video games. While doing my research, I came across some quite obscure titles such as the quite atrocious Imagine: Journalist for the Nintendo DS and the utterly unrealistic number crunchfest Newspaper Manager II. The abstract follows:

This paper explores the representations of journalists and journalism in the medium of the computer game. Using examples from both older and contemporary titles, it identifies a set of patterns of representing journalism as a product, as a profession and as an organized activity. In many games, newspapers and other news media are used to chronicle the playable characters’ progress through the game and to connect the characters’ narratives with background narratives that trace the impact of the their actions on the game world and its fictional society. Journalists also rather often become playable characters in computer games, although they rarely perform any journalistic work. Adventure games feature journalists, because their work resembles the genre’s gameplay conventions, including puzzle solving and clue hunting. Journalists also appear in action games, as they tend to be associated with character traits that fit well into the exploration-based gameplay of many contemporary titles. Only a handful of games attempt to represent journalistic work procedurally. The photography game mechanic found in games such as Beyond Good & Evil is one example. The minigames in the Imagine: Journalist game could be considered another one, although these tend to merely map existing game mechanics to a narrative of an aspiring journalist, thus trivializing journalism as a profession.