Newsgames & Serious Games

In this section, we’ve included a list of newsgames and other relevant projects that we have found useful in thinking through our own approach to developing a video game about a serious issue. 



About the plight of illegal immigrants- integrates quiz concerning myths about illegal immigrants, must avoid police as you move through the city-  if arrested the game moves to detention centre location

World Without Oil

“Alternate reality” game where players play through their own lives, as opposed to embodying characters. Game does not take a point of view, but allows the participants to form a collective of experts.

Budget Hero

Game allows players to build US budget. Players create their own “character” by selecting “values” (policy priorities) at the beginning of the game. Your gameplay is partially rated depending on how your choices match your values. Before making a decision about the budget, you are presented with a card that expands on the pros and cons of that decision.

*You are able to compare your choices to those of other players


Game simulates the experience of unemployed, single parent through financial decisions player must make ranging from choosing a job to buying child an ice cream. Aim of game play is to avoid bankruptcy. Visuals are mainly text-based but still effective. Very helpful if we decide to explore the financial reality of sex workers in our game.

September 12th

“rhetoric of failure” (can’t win), very simple gameplay, event-based

In this game, players must kill terrorists, but soon discover that every death they cause only leads to the creation of more terrorists. Players are informed before entering the game that they will not be able to win. Despite this fact, half a million people have played September 12th thus far, according to creator Gonzalo Frasca’s blog (

Kabul Kaboom!

“rhetoric of failure”, very simple gameplay and graphics, creator Gonzalo Frasca has said this game is not meant to be pleasurable but alienating, event-based (player image is taken from Picasso’s Guernica)


in memory of the victims of terrorist attacks in Madrid, very simple gameplay (not pleasurable), about the process/practice of remembering, event-based

New York Defender

Very similar to September 12th- rhetoric of failure- must shoot down planes as they approach Twin Towers, but the more you shoot the more planes come at the buildings. Begs the question- what is appropriate in videogame form?

Airport Security

Overtly ridicules airport security but evokes empathy for airport security staff, good example of video game like a political cartoon

McDonald’s Videogame

must use exploitative practices to run your fast-food company, see how agricultural, managerial and corporate choices interrelate- good example of how a game can illustrate a system

Avenue l’ecole de Joinville

“rhetoric of failure”- player must run a detention center, but always ends in failure, the center is burned down- based on a true story (event-based)


game by Serious Games Solutions GmbH for iPad, player must coordinate rescue missions in different catastrophe scenarios simultaneously


Sands Of Silence

The SOS Slaves game, tied to the feature documentary “Sands of Silence”, focuses on the plight of victims of human trafficking. A first-person role playing game, players can choose to play as different characters, most of whom are victims of human trafficking from various parts of the world. There is also the option to play as an anti-trafficking activist (though I have not found any in-depth information on this aspect of the game). The ultimate goal of gameplay is to escape from your captors or help others escape. Players have the option of using violence against their captors (discouraged in the game), or convincing fellow victims to escape together. While this does afford the player some agency, this game focuses on exploitative sex work and positions the player as a victim of slavery.

In our current game scenario, we are focusing on sex workers’ ability to earn their livelihood safely on a daily basis. This works to legitimize and normalize sex work. Players recognize through gameplay that sex workers make choices about how to practice their profession and are active agents in their own lives. In our current scenario, sex work is not portrayed as being inherently dangerous- it is the three key Canadian prostitution laws that heighten risk to sex workers.

Can this be done as well as addressing forced prostitution? If the three laws in question are struck down, this can make it easier for sex workers to earn their livelihood. However, some feel this could lead to the perpetuation of prostitution and human trafficking. Do we want to incorporate this side of the issue into our game?

Important to differentiate between sex work and human trafficking- included in a preamble?

In SOS Slaves Game, it is possible to escape the individual that is causing the exploitation. In our game, the player cannot escape the reality of the three laws that leads to problematic and even violent situations for sex workers.

The SOS Slaves game also includes mini-documentaries to develop a narrative about each character option’s individual journey. Our game does not tell a story about sex workers, but instead demonstrates the interrelated effects of the three prostitution laws on sex workers.

Some possible ideas to take from the game:

    • different characters that player can choose from- could our players choose from a prostitute who has chosen her profession vs. character forced into prostitution? This could allow us to portray both sides of the argument about the three laws
    • player can give comments, upload videos, share with others etc… at the end of the game
    • point and click format- player chooses between several action options
    • first-person- you see through the eyes of the character as opposed to hovering above them
    • we could incorporate other practices sex workers use to keep safe- such as calling a friend before meeting a client, taking down license plate numbers of potential clients, etc… to give more of a sense of every day experience-  see Tips for Tricking Around Town


The Immersive Journalism Experience

 “Nonny de la Pena thinks takes immersive journalism to a whole new level with her virtual reality story “Hunger in Los Angeles.” She gives the user the opportunity to walk through a Los Angeles food line and see a diabetic fall into a coma while waiting for food. The experience is based on audio captured at an actual event. It has been augmented with a visual experience created in a studio by the Immersive Journalism team.”


Produces many political video games, and Bogost characterizes a lot their games as newsgames. I found “Unmanned” particularly interesting- combines the unglamourous, mundane aspects of soldier life with emotional toll of being at war,


Not newsgames- but have a selection of casual games that might be useful in thinking through strategies of making a game easy to play. Also have other forms of games.

Shadow Cities

Shadow Cities won the GDC Online Innovation Award in 2011 and was described as “the most interesting, innovative, provocative and far-reaching video game in the world right now, on any system.” by New York Times.