This morning we unveiled the latest version of the Budget Balancer ... an online game of sorts that lets you choose among various options to raises or cut spending and taxes to balance the state's budget. As a game, it's more Oregon Trail than Halo. But as journalism, I think it's groundbreaking--and part of a trend toward boundary-blurring between journalism and gaming. I think the Balancer shows that we can provide a more comprehensive, holistic picture of really important issues like the state budget by thinking differently about how we present information, and how people interact with it.
I have a hunch that interacting with a tool like the Balancer actually helps people absorb more information that they would just passively listening to the radio, or reading the paper. Just a hunch, but a strong one.
And what may be even more intriguing is the promise the Balancer, and journalistic "games" like it, have for transforming the role that newsrooms play in their community. The Balancer lets you e-mail your budget plan to the governor, legislators, etc. So we're in effect acting as a conduit for citizen participation in government. This is not usually a role newsrooms have historically taken on.