Credit: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Washington Post has launched its first-ever games newsletter, as a highly engaged audience emerged from a beta testing period.

Game Break provides daily links to The Post’s suite of games, including its own games On The Record and Keyword. It also has crosswords and Sodokus.

On The Record tests the player's news knowledge Monday to Thursday, with three chances to answer one quote-based question. It leads to a 10-question finale on Friday. Wrong answers cost you points but grant a hint.

Keyword is a word-based puzzle where the player must guess the missing letters from both vertical and horizontal words.

The Post started trialling the newsletter and the games in July with around 1,000 test users. Game Break is now the second-highest newsletter in terms of click-through rate. Two thirds of Keyword players return to play the game again. The gameplay rate has increased by 70 per cent over the past year.

"The goal of the newsletter is that it’s not a heavy lift: you open it, it takes you a minute to scroll through and then it’s however long you spend on the game," explains Amy Parlapiano, quiz writer, emerging news products, at The Washington Post.

Building daily habits is the core objective of the games. The newsletter is delivered at 9am Pacific Time and 12pm Eastern Time - just in time for a coffee break or lunch time.

She says that initial feedback has confirmed that players like to bounce from game to game and that players currently like how these games operate.

Digital games have one key advantage over their analogue counterparts: they can show score averages and breakdowns.

Right now, the newsletter shows player statistics, such as the average time for completing Keyword, or what percentage of players got questions right or wrong. Parlapiano says she wants to develop more features for keeping track of scores, streaks and leaderboards. She is even toying with the idea of badges for players who hit certain targets. But she stresses that the newsletter needs to remain a light read.

Game Break is a good example of inter-disciplinary, cross-department collaboration. It has required the combined efforts of engineering, product, marketing and crucially, editorial.

Parlapiano sits in on editorial meetings to get a sense of stories to build into her quizzes. She says that quizzes should accommodate both light and heavy news readers, and those interested in serious and softer news stories. Quizzes in particular can serve as a prompt to engage with news the player might have missed.

Screenshot: The Washington Post's On The Record

"I don't ever want people to feel they didn't read enough of the news to possibly participate in the quiz," she says.

"If there’s a news item you missed, the way it's written is supposed to give you some contextual hints. You can still play the quiz if you haven’t read the news start to back or if you’re not a hardcore news junkie."

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