In November 2004, media from around the world covered the U.S.-led attack on the Iraqi "terrorist stronghold" of Fallujah. So did the video game, Kuma War, whose realistic simulation of the event was designed as an "intense, boots-on-the-ground experience" for video gamers. Young people don't watch TV news or read newspapers, explains Kuma Reality Games CEO Keith Halper, but they play hour after hour of video games, so why not convey war reports to them through their recreational activities?
PLAYING THE NEWS profiles the first video game company to consider itself a legitimate news organization, taking us from the company's Manhattan offices, equipped with satellite technology, to the frontlines of the war in Iraq. The documentary features interviews with Kuma executives and designers, a media studies professor, a New Technology writer for The Economist, a war correspondent, and several video gamers, who download new episodes monthly and who can play separately or link up online with others to play as a squad.
Can such video games play a serious journalistic role or do they misconstrue the real nature of war for voyeuristic thrills? Do they represent the future of journalism or the dangerous blurring of news and entertainment? Can we look forward to an Abu Ghraib video game?
PLAYING THE NEWS is a provocative examination of whether video games are a revolutionary new way to engage young people in current events or an unethical marketing gimmick that merely seeks to exploit war.
"Does a fine job of exploring the ability (and inability) of a game to help viewers to really experience the war."—David T. Z. Mindich, Journalism History
2007 American Psychological Association Convention
2007 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
2006 Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
2006 Tribeca International Film Festival
2006 SXSW Film Festival
2006 Seattle International Film Festival
2005 Currie Documentary Prize, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
""By presenting arguments for and against the game, filmmakers Plunkett and Mehta have created a documentary that would be a useful trigger for discussion about the nature of video games, the evolution of journalism and entertainment, and the ethics of turning an existing conflict into a vehicle for entertainment. This provocative film is recommended for public and academic libraries."Library Journal
"A provocative, balanced, and thought-provoking film...raises critical questions."—Leonardo Digital Reviews
"An excellent teaching tool... Highly recommended for academic and public libraries."—Educational Media Reviews Online