Headliner: NoviNews

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Headliner: NoviNews Game Poster Image
Clever adventure game shows the consequences of media bias.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players can choose to play ethically or selfishly to spread a positive or a negative message through the media.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Good and bad characters appear. Players get to choose what kind of editor they want to be, which affects the way the news is portrayed.

Ease of Play

Easy click interface makes gameplay a breeze; there's no such thing as a "wrong" choice. Different choices cause different consequences.

Violence

Simple, blocky characters are shown jumping to their deaths, fighting, and crashing cars into buildings. But no blood or gore's shown.

Sex

Players are given the opportunity to start a romantic relationship.

Language

Frequent use "s--t" and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is shown smoking cigarettes. Characters discuss drinking and doing drugs, and players can choose to promote an addictive alcoholic beverage.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Headliner: NoviNews is a downloadable adventure game for Windows PCs. The gameplay highlights how the media determines our understanding of the world by filtering information. It shows characters smoking cigarettes, hanging out in bars, and drinking. It also gives players the option to promote an addictive alcoholic beverage. It also contains frequent swearing, including "f--k" and "s--t," as well as adult themes such as suicide, addiction, mental illness, and drug and alcohol use. Blocky cartoonish characters are shown puking, crashing cars, rioting, and committing suicide by jumping off buildings, although no blood or gore's shown.

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What's it about?

HEADLINER: NOVINEWS is an adventure game that explores how selective distribution of information determines our reality. Players take on the role of a managing editor at an urban newspaper, and are presented each morning with a selection of news stories. These stories are about a variety of issues: health care, crime, immigration, international trade -- and players get to choose which stories to kill and which ones to publish. The effects of these choices become visible each new day, changing everything from the way people treat each other to the goods they buy. Players also feel the effects, risking the wrath of the  government by sticking to their principles, or reaping the rewards of toeing the political party line.

Is it any good?

In the current “fake news” climate, there need to be more games like this little indie adventure gem. Through simple 2D art and clever storytelling, Headliner: Novinews shows in clear, understandable terms exactly how the media both informs and distorts our reality. Few of us have seen the inner workings of a newsroom, but this game presents a convincing picture of what that would be like.

Picture yourself as the insider sitting at a desk, deciding what people know. Would you tell them the truth, no matter how painful it might be for you and for them? Or would you take the easy way out and tell them what they want to hear?  Making those decisions isn't easy, especially when they affect the people you love, and Headliner: NoviNews does a great job of demonstrating just how tough it would be. Better yet, it provides insight into why someone might make certain decisions: how they might distort information to please special interest groups or for personal gain. The game's very short at around ninety minutes, but its collection of complex ethical questions gives it great replayability. Different choices provide different outcomes, and you can even see other players' results. The one area that could use improvement is your customizable home base. While you're able to buy furnishings and accessories for your place, it isn't all that satisfying since they don't actually do a heck of a lot. On top of that, the language and frequent references to alcohol aren't the best for young kids. Still, the game's graphics and sound are nice, and the message they convey is important. For parents wondering how to explain the current fake news crisis to their kids, this is a means of doing so that's entertaining and informative.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the news and media affects our understanding of the world. How can the media distort our perceptions?

  • Do you believe everything you see on TV and the Internet? Are you willing to consider information if it negates your own opinion?

Game details

  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: $9.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Unbound Creations
  • Release date: October 23, 2018
  • Genre: Adventure
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions

For kids who love adventure

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