table mountain
Credit: By fabulousfabs on Flickr. Some rights reserved
A news game app that matches players' interests with a political party in South Africa won the Global Editors Network (GEN) 48-hour hackathon in Cape Town on Saturday.

The team won R20,000 (£1,265) to develop the project and will attend the GEN global hackathon in Barcelona next June.

“Although not the most technically accomplished project, Party Match won because it demonstrated the local potential for news games and the importance of humour in building audience engagement around ‘boring’ issues such as politics,” said jury member and African Media Initiative chief digital strategist Justin Arenstein in a press release accompanying the announcement.

“The creative execution on Party Match was also heads above the other 13 contestants.”

The app was made by journalist Loni Prinsloo and designer Fiona Kirsch of the Sunday Times (SA) with Carla Goldstein, a software developer at Afrozaar, with the aim of being a fun and accessible way to engage South African youth with politics before the 2014 election.

"When the app comes up you have all the different parties, similar to what you'll often see on a dating site," Prinsloo told Journalism.co.uk. "You'll see people coming up and then if you click on them you can go to their profile."

The app includes the different political parties that are active in South Africa and provides a short history on each, with information about their leadership and objectives. To find a 'match', users complete a series of multiple choice questions that helps the software determine which political party would be their "perfect match", said Prinsloo.

"And then it goes to the last page and there's a big heart and the leader of the party will then 'kiss' you," she said, highlighting the humour so commended by judges which she hopes will draw young users to the app.


Slides from the Party Match team's presentation in Cape Town

Teams were told to create something around the topic of politics but developer Carla Goldstein, who said she was one of the only attendees not from a newspaper and knew little about politics, decided the final should be simple and straightforward.

"For me, it was about making it approachable for people who don't know a lot about politics," Goldstein told Journalism.co.uk. "For me, if I saw someone posting something on Facebook, although I'm interested in the news, I won't necessarily read an entire article. So if you can get a quick overview in a fun way then that's good."

As an iOS developer, Goldstein built the app for an iPad, but Prinloos said the team would be looking to expand on their prototype and create iterations for smartphones and desktop, with integrated sharing ability in social media.

Prinloos said finding new, relevant ways to engage younger generations in the news and current affairs is important during a time of political change in South Africa. A number of new parties have been established as splinter parties of the ANC, which has won a majority in both the National Assembly and Senate in every election since the end of apartheid.

"We wanted people to know what these new parties are all about and also what the older parties are about because a lot of them come from the older apartheid era and are associated with the all-white parties but they aren't all white any more. The demographic has changed significantly and so have the constitutions of those parties," she said.

"When I look at my brothers, who are a couple of years younger, they aren't really interested in news and reading pages and pages of information. How they grow up is more focussed on technology and how it works and they're very used to it. They use it for everything. So why not for news? Why not make it fun and inform them at the same time?"

Prinsloo, Goldstein and Kirsch will be taking Party Match to market in the new year, once the questionnaire phase has been developed to fully reflect a party's manifesto and further iterations have been built for mobile.

"Having the news on your phone and having these games on your phone will go some way in giving the news to people and a lot more people," she said. "It sparks an interest where there wasn't an interest before."

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).

blog comments powered by Disqus