The Oldest Game - Creating A Newsgame about Sex Work in Canada

Possible Media Partnerships

Deciding on what media outlets to partner with in the distribution of our game pertains to our objectives for this project. Who is our target audience for the game? What kind of dialogue do we want to foster? Do we want to attract a large audience to our game immediately or would we like to experiment with smaller audiences? Furthermore, it is important that we partner with an outlet with a strong online presence that has the infrastructure to support interactive technology.

Alternative Media Outlets

Alternative media outlets are more likely to partner with outside content-producers, and also publish more controversial content. However, while there are many alternative media outlets in Canada, it is important that we select an alternative media outlet that has a strong online presence and values their online content.

IDEAL CANDIDATE: RABBLE.CA has published many articles highlighting different points of views on the changes to Canadian prostitution laws, encouraging debate about these issues. This media outlet often partners with other blogs and organizations to produce content. targets a progressive, politicized audience who are eager to contribute to a dialogue. Furthermore, they often publish content with an obvious point of view on a topic. They also produce multimedia content, and would likely be interested in exploring new technologies.

The Tyee is a prominent alternative media outlet in Canada. Though it does target readers in British Columbian, it still reaches audiences across the country. Like, they target a more progressive audience, and are open to outside content-producers. Their online and multimedia features are less developed than

This Magazine, while primarily a print media outlet, has an active website and blog. It is the longest running alternative journal in Canada. However, they have not extensively covered the prostitution law changes in Canada, and do not produce multi-media content.

Shameless is a alternative, feminist magazine that is aimed at young women. Though they are primarily a print magazine, they do run an award-winning blog with web features and podcasts. This would be an interesting partnership if we were hoping to experiment with a more specific audience.
Sheila Sampath, Editorial Director
Sarah Feldbloom, Web Producer

Mainstream Media Outlets

Many mainstream outlets such as the CBC, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star are beginning to experiment with new interactive online technologies. The advantage to partnering with a mainstream outlet would be the vast, cross-country audience they attract. However, the content is created in-house and it is unclear if they would be interested in partnering with an outside group, particularly if it relates to a controversial game such as ours.

Other Resources

The Feminist Media Project
Created to specifically respond to misrepresentations of missing and murdered women in Vancouver in the media, this group of academics and journalists also comment on other misrepresentations of women. Though they appear to be less active in creating content, they continue to link to outside articles.

Media Action Media
Advocacy and initiatives responding to problematic media representations, particularly of women. Interested in new digital technologies.

Canadian newsgame example

MARK OF THE BEAST, based in Toronto, is partnering with: “the Center for Investigative Reporting and IGN later in September, planning a newsgame hack day as an Innovate News event in association with the UXI design community, and potentially TIFFNet (Toronto International Film Festival’s year-round body), the International Game Developers Association, Interactive Ontario and Entertainment Software Association of Canada trade groups, and Toronto’s DigiFest festival [discussions in progress].”  They are not partnering with traditional media outlets but rather different kinds of organizations to help develop and distribute their game.

Newsgames versus serious games

by Sandra Gabriele

“Le newsgame, variante de serious game, est un format problématique dans la mesure où il a pour caractéristique de mettre au service de la réflexion et de l’information les ressorts du jeu vidéo. En effet, dans le cas du serious game, « le joueur doit inscrire les actions qu’il accomplit dans le cadre du jeu à l’intérieur d’une perspective plus large. Il doit donner autant d’importance à la compréhension qu’à la réussite» (Lavergne, Boudier & Dambach, as cited by Blanchard 2011).

Blanchard, G. (2011). Journalisme et jeux vidéo: un public en inventionLes cahiers du journalisme. 22(23), 84-99.

Prostitution in computer games

Prostitutes are often depicted in video games as minor, non-player characters. These representations are usually negative, associating prostitutes with social ills and perpetuating stereotypes of sex workers as deviant, subservient to male desire, and victims of violence and drugs. Player interactions with sex workers can sometimes lead to a “health boost” or some other form of reward within the game. Prostitutes are therefore represented as objects to be exploited for the player’s personal gain. Often, prostitutes are simply present in virtual worlds to contribute to a seedy atmosphere, meant to convey that a particular environment is crime-ridden. Few video games offer insight into the perspective of sex workers

Prostitutes are repeatedly depicted as victims of violence and drugs. Some games depict them as victims of horrendous murders (Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the RipperHo-Tel), others portray them as drug addicts (Liberal Crime Squad). Sometimes, players are given the option of intervening or allowing for the prostitute to be killed (as in the case of Red Dead RedemptionHeavy Rain). In other games, most famously in Grand Theft Auto, the player is actually given the option of beating up a prostitute for gain within the game.

When prostitutes are characters in the story, as in the case of Gun Showdown or Heavy Rain, the narrative situates them as looking for ways to escape the world of prostitution. Sex work is not depicted as a choice but the product of difficult life circumstances. In both of these games, the prostitutes are attacked and players decide whether to intervene or not. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is a somewhat positive representation of a prostitute in the character of Mei Suen. She runs a brothel, takes care of her employees, and is clever and strong enough not to succumb to the wills of the criminals that eventually take over her business. However, she can be knocked out or killed by the player.

Ho-Tel, “A Game of Ho’s & Whores”, puts the player in the position of a pimp who must build a sex industry empire. This game explicitly depicts sex workers as objects to be controlled and exploited. Although to have a successful business the player must keep their employees happy, this can done through buying sex workers cocain or allowing them to “suck on your dick”. All other options the player has, such as buying employees “whore clothes” or paying for their plastic surgery, have to do with making sex workers more attractive and therefore more profitable.

Because prostitutes are non-player characters, they are awarded no agency within game play. Prostitutes are never portrayed as empowered subjects but as victims to their profession. Furthermore, interactions between a sex worker and a player are not portrayed as negotiated business transactions. Prostitutes simply succumb to the sexual “desires” of the player at the click of a console.

RESOURCE: Giant Bomb