Tomorrow’s newspaper

When I was a kid, I remember seeing an old movie — I guess it was science fiction, if you had to classify it — around the theme of a man who somehow gets his hands on tomorrow’s newspaper. Because this was a movie, and there had to be some kind of engine to drive the plot, the headline of this particular newspaper announced that the man is going to be murdered. The narrative consists of him trying to figure out how to make this future not happen.

Of course in the end he is not murdered (he’s the good guy, after all), but the newspaper ends up reporting his death anyway. The last scene is rather beautiful. He wakes up in an alley, realizing that he has cheated death, to the cries of the newspaper boy hawking the very newspaper he is already holding. It starts to rain, and in the last shot he realizes the paper is still useful — as a rain hat.

I read an article yesterday in the New York Times Magazine that talked about the research we’ve been doing for the last several years. It said lots of things, and it took thousands of words to say it. I have no doubt that many influential people will read the article. I was mentioned, as were my colleagues, and the reporter did indeed interview us.

Yet the paper somehow managed not to mention the very thing that was most important about our work — that there is a verifiable and predictive science to creating games that teach.

Many people will read this article and will think that they now know about the subject of games for learning. After all, they read it in the New York Times! But in fact they won’t know about the subject. As often happens when the press covers science, the Times somehow managed to not get the essence of the story. They got the drama of the story, the human interest, the cool scenes of kids playing games in classrooms — all of the things that would make a reader think that a story is being told.

But they didn’t get the really important part — the part where current methods of education, which are still rooted in the 19th century because they rely on drills and testing, can be effectively replaced. The part where testing itself can go away, because you can accurately tell how well a child is learning a subject while they are playing a well designed game.

Maybe someone will tell that story in tomorrow’s newspaper. Meanwhile, I’ve got a lovely rain hat (just kidding).

One Response to “Tomorrow’s newspaper”

  1. Mari says:

    Congratulations!!! But why does journalism need drama…was this always like this? Or in this fast information age, all is entertainment, not reporting, I guess….
    That was a great NYTmagazine issue BTW…

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