Credit: Image by ybot84 on Flickr. Some rights reserved
The Cologne Game Lab is set to host Europe's first newsgame hackathon in May with journalists, game designers, programmers and illustrators being invited to apply for a limited number of spaces at the event.

Attendees to the Newsgames Hackathon will have 48 hours to plan and create a prototype newsgame at the event in Cologne, Germany, on 6 and 7 May, before the opening of international gaming conference Clash of Realities.

"For me personally, a newsgame does exactly what a good piece of journalism always does," Marcus Bösch, event organiser and founder of games studio the Good Evil, told "It informs me of something I didn't know before. It may not be entertaining – maybe it is – but nevertheless I always have to have this feeling that it was worthwhile. It has extra content."

[With a newsgame] you experience something that you do not experience something on your own while reading an articleMarcus Bösch, the Good Evil
Participation is free, but Bösch said there would only be space for 30 attendees, to be split into 10 teams with a mixture of skills. Applicants will be chosen based on their skills and experience.

"We have a word in German – mehrwert – that kind of means extra value," he said,"that makes you think 'thanks for that'. You can do that with a great written reportage or a great piece of radio but I think a good newsgame must achieve exactly that. It must surprise you or give you something extra."

Although the medium is still in its infancy, said Bösch, newsgames can offer a different way for readers to understand a topic that traditional forms of journalism may not.

"You have a personal interactive experience," he said. "You experience something that you do not experience something on your own while reading an article or watching the telly. I think that is the crucial point that is very strong and can be used in strong ways."

Where "traditional, linear media" apply non-web content forms – text, audio, pictures, video – to the internet, newsgames are a way for journalists to tell stories in a more digital manner, he said.

"Games are disrupting many industries like science and education," he said. "The military uses games in every sector they work on to get people involved and get them to cope better with post-traumatic stress disorder. They're using games for that. They're not using games because they're cool or funny or hip but because they have great outcomes, so I think journalism too should try to embrace these possibilities."

As an experienced journalist and media trainer, Bösch was inspired by the 2010 book Newsgames: Journalism at Play to begin experimenting with programming and newsgames. Having taken inspiration from newsgame hackathons in the US, he now wants to unite like-minded individuals across Europe in building newsgames.

"My major wish and goal is to push things forward and get European journalists to think about newsgames or to better get an idea of what newsgames can or can't do," he said. "I'm really curious as to what can happen next."

More information for applications is available on the Newsgame Hackathon Tumblr. Read more about newsgames and journalism here.

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