By Josh Spiro
Nothing motivates you to arrive on time like the flush of embarrassment over missing an important event. Just ask Nicholas Kristof. As the first blogger for The New York Times’ website, back in 2003, he played an important role in yanking the Gray Lady into the world of Web 2.0. Yet he readily admits that established journalists and news outlets were Johnny-come-latelys to social media. Not eager to be tardy again, Kristof, has since endeavored to stay ahead of the curve in the intersecting worlds of journalism and technology.
Since his first foray into blogging, Kristof has embraced other participatory forms of journalism; he is active and highly popular on Twitter and Facebook, and for the past six years, he has held the “Win a Trip” essay contest, in which one lucky student gets to go on a reporting trek with him to a country in the developing world and blog about the experience. Most recently, Kristof, together with Games for Change, has been working on a social impact game to accompany the book he co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky, which deals with the worldwide oppression and empowerment of women and girls, particularly around issues such as gender-based violence, health, education and economic empowerment.
Like social media before it, Kristof sees the games medium as a great way for journalists to transmit news and information; the two fields share the advantages of reaching a younger age group and more fully and continuously engaging their audience, as opposed to the old media model of proclaiming the news at set intervals and ignoring the reaction of the hoi polloi.
“I think gaming might be the next big platform for news organizations and causes,” Kristof told Fast Company in a recent interview. “Some people think games are just ‘what teenagers do’ or that they are too fun to be worthy of our attention. But there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time playing games online, so we in the news business would do well to think about how we can use games to attract eyeballs.”
Josh Spiro works on game design in Brooklyn, New York and blogs about social impact games at Will Play Games for Change.