Could reading the news become a game? In western society there is a clear division between work and play. But, according to Jesse Schell speaking at the DICE 2010 conference, this is all set to change. Drastically.

Drawing on the massive growth of games like Farmville (which has more players than there are twitter accounts), Mafia Wars and the X Box achievement system, he explains these games successes in terms of subtle psychological tricks. Suggesting that it isn’t the content or the imagination involved in these games that makes them so successful, but something else, something that is pointing towards a significant shift in human behaviour. In particular it is their psychological angle that capitalises on peoples desire for points.

People love points, as any gamer will know. And the crux of Joey’s talk is in how our love of points  is going to step outside of the game and straight into our everyday social and work life. Something else that people love, especially nowadays, is “the real”. Todays commercial obsession with authentic products, traditional lifestyles and organic and ethical concerns all suggest a desire to escape an increasingly fake, hyped, spun and commercial world. One area where this desire for the real is felt most strongly is in the creation and consumption of news.

A generation has grown up bored by a newspaper industry based on “churnalism”; is distrustful of newspapers that are susceptible to political favours; is tired of reading stories fabricated by PR professionals; and is looking away from traditional forms of media towards a badly needed new form.

The change is coming online as more people become increasingly engaged with news through the internet. Users are interacting with stories graphically; they are exploring stories on their own terms; they are easily entering into debate; they are no longer loyal to a single source of news. If a news story is of interest the avenues possible to explore it are rapidly increasing.

And how better to catalyse this changing engagement with news than to turn it into a point scoring game? How better to incentivise someone than giving them a real sense of achievement and progression?