Chungking Espresso

Pardon the Bookkeeping: JAG Stat Tracking

Posted in Miscellany, Schoolwork by Simon Ferrari on May 12, 2009

This is more for my own record-keeping than for your reading pleasure, but some of my friends might find it fun to tear into me for how I present this information and/or be inspired to go check out the stuff we’ve got on the News Games blog.

The News Games blog has enjoyed fairly consistent amounts of visitors throughout its existence. November and December (2008) saw the highest number of unique and repeat visitors (10,479 and 605, respectively) because of some high-profile linking by mainstream gaming websites. Q1 of 2009 saw a slight dip in readership despite increased recognition by other websites (7,694 unique visitors), and numbers have been steadily rising through the beginning of Q2 (with 5,691 unique visitors thus far). The top referring links were from (in descending order) Kotaku, Slashdot, Game Set Watch, and Digg—although the most consistent flow of readers came from no referring link at all, which means that a number of our regular readers bookmarked the website themselves.

Recorded visit lengths show that roughly 20% of visitors stayed long enough to thoroughly read at least one article, three percent read multiple articles (spending up to an hour on the site), while 2% browsed the website for longer than an hour! Readers came from at least 21 countries, with all continents represented except Antarctica. Seventy-six percent of readers came from the United States, 6% came from Canada, 4% from the UK, 3.4% from Brazil, 1.6% from Australia, and 1.2% from Singapore (other countries represent less than 1% of the readership).

News Games has published 91 articles over the past 6 months, which averages to one post every other day. Once normalized, the posting schedule was one article on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The articles cover topics such as (but not limited to) journalistic connections to mainstream games; analyses of news, editorial, and documentary games; connections between games and the journalistic values of verification and transparency; explorations of interactive info-vizualization and traditional newspaper puzzles; and general musings on the current state of print journalism and the nature of games as a serious artistic/informational medium. Readers and contributors have authored 116 unique, non-spam comments on articles over the course of the project.

The most popular search query used to reach the site is “journalism games,” followed closely by “news games” and “news games georgia.” This implies that either a decent number of Internet readers were interested in the subject beforehand or became interested in the subject after the project had been linked by popular gaming websites. The latter query also shows that the project has been recognized and explicitly associated with Georgia Tech. Following the most common queries are “newspaper games,” “tenants of journalism,” “ethics in games,” and “journalism kids.” The searches show that our project has become associated with the disciplines and business models of traditional journalism, the question of morality in games, and the potential educational uses of news games.

News Games enjoyed a healthy dose of mainstream attention throughout the past six months. Gawker Media’s Kotaku, one of the most popular and influential videogames-related websites in the world, linked an article called Do Really Games Qualify As Escapist? in late November of 2008, netting a decent amount of outside attention for the blog and challenging mainstream gamers to consider the ability of games to address social issues. This article was also picked up by Digg, a popular bookmarking and crowd-sourcing website. Game Set Watch, the respected casual arm of the games industry mega-site Gamasutra, linked four articles from News Games through Q4 2008 and Q1 2009:

Newsgames in the Pipe (a hypothetical business model for making newsgames in the newsroom)

Technical Aspects of Breaking Newsgames (a followup to the previous article)

Dead Rising and Interventionist Media Ethics (about an action reporting videogame and its possible relation to the media ethics of Conrad Fink)

Huys/Hope – Turkey’s First Political Game (an analysis of the connection between Turkey’s first editorial game and its relation to journalism and Gonzalo Frasca’s Madrid)

The Online Journalism Blog published an article in early Q2 2009 called Now That Journalism is In Trouble, Why Not Play With It? that aggregated numerous writings from the News Games blog, setting up a discourse on the question of videogames as a possible solution to the problem of news media companies failing to reach wider audiences in the era of the Internet. This article was picked up by the UK Guardian newspaper, a bookmarking website called Slashdot, and Kotaku. Readers treated the idea with a mix of excitement and fear, thinking that both games and the news might be possibly tarnished or at least changed irrevocably if the connection between the two were strengthened in the future.

The most recent recognition of the News Games project comes from Professor Roger Travis (of UConn) and his Video Games & Human Values Initiative, which linked the article Beyond Good & Evil and Photographic “Truth” (about another action reporting game and its reliance on a naïve view of documentary reality).

Our project received some attention from academics as well, which was exciting (and, frankly, amazing) considering the relative youth of the project and its niche focus. Two professors had the News Games blog as required reading for media studies classes in the spring semester of 2009. Professor Ed Halter of Bard College drew upon the site for case studies in his Film 106: Introduction to Documentary Media. Professor Casey O’Donnell of the University of Georgia blogrolled News Games for his Introduction to Game Design class; students in this class were required to write 250-word synopses of games-related articles from the blogroll each week, many of which ended up being drawn from News Games.

Because the University of Georgia was close by Georgia Tech geographically, the project’s spring 2009 graduate assistant (Ferrari) visited UGA to deliver three lectures in February. The subject of the lectures was an introduction to news, editorial, and documentary games (as well as the work of the News Games project); he spoke to a 150-person class on Introduction to Reporting taught by Professor Barry Hollander—as well as smaller classes taught by Casey O’Donnell, Game Design and Introduction to New Media. The latter lecture was attended by Dr. Hugh Martin, a senior faculty member of UGA’s Grady School of Journalism, who responded to the idea of teaching newsgame production in the context of J-school positively. Journalism students and professors responded well to the idea of integrating newsgame production into the newsroom/reporting process. Ferrari shared some resources on learning Adobe Flash-based game development to the students who were interested in pursuing the idea further in their own coursework.

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4 Responses

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  1. deckard47 said, on May 14, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    That’s incredibly detailed. How long did that take you to compile, exactly? Oh, and due to the fact that no one else has commented here, I feel the absurd urge to write “first,” owing to my general tardiness here. It’s something I have never ever done.

    Also, that is pretty sweet that you got to give lectures to students. And by sweet I mean scary to do. But still cool. I don’t suppose you’re planning on writing them up or putting them up here? That would be interesting (unless you already did and I read them and didn’t realize it).

  2. Simon Ferrari said, on May 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    We started tracking the stats every two weeks beginning in December. The tracking software we used was remarkably spotty, only storing 500 entries at once. This made it kind of a nightmare to find out exactly where people were coming from.

    I copied down the final data table on a Friday, thought about it for a weekend, and then wrote the whole thing in around two hours on Monday. This is indicative of my writing style–think about something for awhile and then spit it out after my head has chugged through what I need to do to convey my point. One weakness is that I make a lot of optimistic assumptions, but that’s what you have to do when you’re justifying your existence to investors. I don’t sugar coat the negative reactions that some people had to our ideas, so I think that’s a major plus.

    Also, you don’t need to worry about your “general tardiness” — you were the first person to start reading and commenting here who I didn’t know in real life. That meant a lot to me when you started doing it, and it still means a lot to me now!

    As to the lectures, it was really exciting to speak to 150 students who had no idea what I was talking about. The professors I guest lectured for bought me coffee and Indian food, which was awesome. Also, giving the same lecture three times for different students shows you a lot about how to synthesize your ideas and adapt them to different audiences, which is cool.

    Hmmm, my lecture slides are kinda sorta really super boring and plain. I’m of the “practice until you can speak everything from memory” school of thought, so I don’t have notes that I used to deliver it. If you’ve read a couple of the posts I’ve thrown up here from the News Games project, then you already know way more than what I presented in the lecture. But if you want to know all about everything I’ve learned in the past year–me, IB, and Bobby Schweizer are writing a book at this very moment that I guess, if published, will be out around January.

    • deckard47 said, on May 14, 2009 at 5:25 pm

      Is the focus of the book newsgames, or is it more the New Game project and some newsgames?

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