The Gamification of Everything: How Games Have Influenced the Next Wave of Interactive Experiences

By Sky Chadde | Investigate Midwest

Before joining Gannett to work on virtual reality, Ray Soto worked in the game industry. This background helped him develop experiences at USA TODAY that augmented the newspaper’s coverage. When he started, he spent a lot of time advocating for virtual reality experiences. 

 But about five years ago, he said, things started to click. Editors who were originally skeptics were now coming to him with ideas. Projects his team worked on included building an interactive experience of a ship bringing slaves to American shores and one about a spurt of violence in Afghanistan involving a private security company. 

It was important to understand the seriousness of these stories while also making them interactive and engaging for users, Soto said. With the story about the private security company, the reporter had gathered all kinds of information, such as court records and photos, and those were shared with the virtual reality team. With those records, it was able to create an experience that was respectful to the real people in the story, Soto said. 

Over his eight years at Gannett, Soto said, the engagement metrics for virtual reality increased. While they still might not compare to some of the newspaper’s traditional storytelling, they showed Soto and his team they were on the right track, he said. 

Soto has now left Gannett for a company called Loric Games, which specializes in immersive storytelling. Soto said he decided to leave journalism to get back into gaming because he saw a convergence of streaming services and games and wanted to be a part of it; for instance, Netflix now offers games on its platform. “The landscape has completely changed,” Soto said.

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