If you’re on or near the University of Colorado Boulder campus or read the student-news service CUIndependent.com, you’re about to find out how well you know news. And how well you can predict the outcome of news events.
The experience for web and mobile users will be fun and games, but there’s seriousness behind the experiments. We’re taking a look at how online and mobile social gaming applied to journalism affects news-consumer behavior, recall, awareness, and engagement. In other words, can supplementing news coverage on a news website and “making news fun” with gaming applications make for better-informed community members? (In this case, we mostly hope to create more news-aware college students.)
Prediculous: Predict the news, beat your friends
Starting on January 18, selected stories on CUIndependent.com will include the addition of questions allowing readers to predict what will happen next, then collect points over time for correct predictions that will increase users’ social standing in the CU edition of the Prediculous online news game.
The CUI staff will begin with Sports coverage, specifically on articles where there’s a future outcome to be predicted. A preview story about the CU Buffs basketball game on the coming Saturday, for example, may include questions asking readers who they think will win, what the point spread will be, who will be the highest-scoring player, etc.
Later, the editors will branch out to other topics: Will Ozzy Osbourne sell out the Pepsi Center? What will be the top-grossing movie this weekend? Will the CU Board of Regents approve a four-year locked-in tuition rate for in-state students?
In addition to questions on specific stories allowing readers to make their predictions, the CUI website also will have a page with multiple prediction questions for those wishing to place multiple “bets.” Some questions will be about national and international news — the same questions from Prediculous’ national game as seen on its website.
Yes, the Prediculous game does have a “gambling” feel to it, in that players place bets (of points) on being right that are lost if they get the prediction wrong, and they’ll win points for getting predictions wrong. But it’s not “gambling” but rather “gaming.” Playing the online game is free, and new players get a pile of points to start out. Players can opt in for premium subscriptions and purchase credits, “but there is no obligation to spend a dime,” according to founder and CEO Taylor McLenore of the Niwot-based company.
Prediculous keeps track of predictions made by you and your friends, and awards or takes away points as the news outcomes play out. Placing big (points) bets can pay off in glory: “The more points you place on a prediction, the bigger the risk or reward. Points separate the winners from the … other guys. More points = more glory,” explains the Prediculous FAQ.
Qrank: This game requires that you know your news
Launching in late January (at this writing a definitive date has not been set) is the CU-Boulder edition of Qrank, a popular news/history/trivia quiz that has become extremely popular on the iPhone. (It also can be played on Facebook.) Developed by Austin, Texas-based Ricochet Labs, Qrank is a daily social quiz that rewards knowledge of current news events, trivia, and history. It also rewards speed, as scores are calculated not just on right or wrong but also on the speed with which you answer.
Again working with CUIndependent.com, the CU-Boulder Qrank game (or “channel” as it will appear on the Qrank iPhone app, Facebook page, or the upcoming Qrank website game) will feature a mix of news, history, and trivia questions in multiple-choice format. Topics will include news, et al from the CU-Boulder campus and city of Boulder, the state of Colorado, and national and international.
As encouragement to keep current on campus news and read CUIndependent.com stories, some of the Qrank questions likely will be answerable only to those who have read the CUI website. To help CU-channel Qrank players, CUI editors will place a small Qrank graphic on news stories that are included in the CU Qrank quiz.
Like Prediculous, Qrank is a social game in which players compete on scoring against their friends, as well as the rest of the CU-Boulder campus. (All players sign in to Qrank using Facebook Connect.) There’s no money involved, but considerable glory in being the best-informed person on campus — and likely some sponsor prizes for top local scorers in the near future.
CU students and others wishing to play the campus game on a mobile device will need to have an iPhone initially; Ricochet Labs CEO Rodney Gibbs says he expects to have an app for Android operating-system phones ready sometime this spring. Non-iPhone owners will still be able to play the CU-Boulder Qrank game on Facebook or the Qrank website. (By the way, iPhone users with the Qrank app installed will see the CU-Boulder Qrank quiz channel only if they are on or very near the campus.)
Behind the scenes, CU School of Journalism & Mass Communication master’s student Matt Hemmendinger will be monitoring use of the campus Qrank quiz and conducting research on effects of the social game on student news awareness and possible changes in news-consumption behavior.
So get ready, CU-Boulder! It’s almost time for you to know your news — current and future.
Steve Outing is former program director and founder of the Digital News Test Kitchen and instructor at CU-Boulder, and a pioneer in the online news and digital media worlds.