Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a news editor? I haven’t, for obvious reasons, but I have wondered what it is like to be a news editor outside of video games, publishing stories about world events and current affairs. Unless there is a major career shift in my future that’ll remain outside the realms of reality, but Headliner: NoviNews is a game that gives a glimpse into what it is like when you’re in a position of power which can impact society on a large scale.
Headliner: NoviNews begins with players creating there avatar and entering the office of NoviNews on their first day on the job. On the desk will be a selection of news stories written by your team and it is up to you to decide which of these stories will be publicised. The stories are a mix of politics, healthcare, security, and social issues with different stances being offered by different writers. For example, some of your staff will write about Novistan needing to invest in itself and be aggressive towards neighbouring nations, while others will write in favour for globalisation. It’s made clear early that once you pick a stance you need to stick with it throughout to be consistent, no matter what happens in the wider world.
This wider world, or in this case a street in Novistan, is where you’ll see the impact of what you publish. A number of different characters will interact with the Headliner from a fellow reporter from abroad to a local shopkeeper and their lives will be impacted by what happens. Let’s run with the Novistan border issue, which could see xenophobia and racism rise on the street, or could see a multinational corporation threaten the livelihoods of both. They could happen at the same time or neither take place, all depending on how you decide upon the issues to push.
As your playing external pressures will hit NoviNews. Be too critical of the government and it may send someone to have a few words about what you’re doing. Ignore a certain secretive group and it could impact your character’s own health – sometimes conviction requires sacrifice, after all. Your decisions and what happens through the story aren’t the end though, as Headliner: NoviNews has been designed to be played through multiple times, both to see how the world changes from your actions and to unlock some different storylines. A single playthrough won’t take long as the in-game time lasts just 14 short days, so doing multiple runs isn’t a hassle.
The game is pleasantly stylised and plays well on the whole, though it would have been good to be able to undo news story approvals before submitting the paper, if you picked incorrectly. There are some situations which some people may find disturbing, but it’s these situations that will generate the stories the world of Headliner: NoviNews want to hear about.