Investigative journalism startup Point is on a crowdfunding drive to create text-based mobile games based upon the issues raised in its reporting on the tech industry.
The YouTube channel, which works with the likes of Forbes and Engadget, believes that creating ‘Misinformer’, a text-based adventure that puts players in the shoes of an investigative journalist, would help fund its real reports.
Jay McGregor, editor-in-chief of Point, told The Drum: "People will hopefully buy these story updates as and when they come, which will keep us – and other journalists we work with – funded.
"I'm hoping that this idea will get Point's viewers to interact with journalism in a new way, rather than passively absorbing the news. But also gamers who don't know anything about Point will see our journalism work and take an interest in investigative reporting.”
‘Misinformer’, McGregor said, will teach people about journalism but also help them see the decisions reporters have to make every day. The game takes place in a smartphone, across secure instant messages and fictional social media platforms.
“Gamers will face choices about how they go about cracking the conspiracy, and those choices have consequences on how the game unfolds. We've also got a bunch of investigative tools in the game, stuff like court document searches, FOI requests, sting operations, tracking and fake image analysis.
"I hope that people pick up some skills and learn to question – and verify – what they see online. If there was ever a time to be wise to misinformation and fake news, it's now."
Debunking fake viral images and identifying bots will be among the challenges on the table.
The game will carry a price, as will the subsequent updates as Point's reports into tech and misinformation are fictionalized into text-based adventures. This income will go back into the company if Point can stoke its existing techy audience, or even attract gamers to read its reporting.
Inspiring the move into gaming was the talent the group had in-house. It already boasts a game developer, a scriptwriter, video production talent and reporters who will have an affinity for writing. The Kickstarter fundraiser will secure another game developer to deliver the game.
Point is not the first news brand to create a game. Bloomberg developed a 'Pick Your Own Brexit' game last year, and previously The American Mall game. But it is claiming to be the first organisation to adapt its investigations into video games. And it looks to be putting down the roots to make gaming a serious cornerstone of its brand which was founded in 2017.
“This might become a normal part of the publishing process in five years," McGregor said, "although I hope everyone remembers we were first to do it. I'm hoping the game is just so damn good that word of mouth spreads.”
McGregor hopes the drive will make “a material difference to how people consume and understand journalism. I'm not really sure how to quantify that, but I'm confident whoever plays the game will come out of it with some extra skills.”
In an ideal world, the performance of the game would also help Point scale up to hire new reporters and video editors
"Important journalism costs money. We're not trying to be millionaires, if we can fund our work, then I'm happy,” concluded McGregor.
The Kickstarter has currently raised £2,160 of its £18,500 goal to hire a new games developer. Big ticket donors can buy a place in the game.