The New York Times is starting to play games with its readers

For the drive-by media, the Trump years were golden years. They could count on viewers and readers desperate to hear how horrible Trump was (and please, ignore the stellar economy, low unemployment, world peace, etc., because those just interfered with the narrative). What the New York Times discovered during the dislocations of 2020 and the nation-breaking of the Biden administration is that people desperate to find a respite from bad news like to play games. The paper is therefore planning to make a big move into the game market to diversify its revenue stream.

Bloomberg reported on the paper's plans to expand on its popular crossword puzzles and its online "Spelling Bee" game:

The Times is under pressure lately to diversify away from news. With Donald Trump's chaotic presidency over — and the riveting events of 2020 in the rearview mirror — the newspaper has warned that subscriber gains won't continue at the rate they did last year. So the company is looking to games to help maintain its momentum. 

It currently plans to invest more money in games and puzzles than ever before. In a sign of its ambitions, the company recently hired Jonathan Knight, who helped make popular online games like Words With Friends and FarmVille while working for Zynga Inc. He brings the kind of digital knowhow that the Times may have lacked with traditional crossword gurus like Will Shortz.

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The company had 840,000 games subscribers at the end of 2020, up 40% from the end of 2019. Games are the Times's second-most-popular subscription, ahead of cooking, which had 726,000 people enrolled. That compares with 5.1 million digital news subscribers. The Times charges about $40 a year for a games subscription, but currently offers half-price to people who pay for news.

I am an inordinately cynical person. That may explain why, the moment I read this article, I was reminded of an episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Episode 106, entitled "The Game," Commander Riker returns from leave on Risa bringing with him a video game that the players operate with their minds. Soon, everyone on the ship is hooked but for Data the Android, boy wonder Wesley, and his girlfriend, Robin Lefler.

Of course, it turns out that the game isn't a game at all. Instead, it's a mind-control device that will allow the evil Ktarians to gain control of Starfleet. Once the Ktarians disable Data, it's up to the boy wonder and his little friend to save Starfleet.

Looking back at the episode, there's some serious irony in the fact that Wesley was played by Wil Wheaton and Robin Lefler was played by Ashley Judd. Both have become mind-controlled leftists who sank deep into the swamps of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

It isn't hard to imagine that the New York Times will subtly start using the games as a vehicle to keep people in thrall to its leftist ideas. In addition to hiring engineers, designers, artists, etc., you can just imagine the Times hiring persuaders and psychologists to figure out how to move people politically while they think they're merely playing a word or trivia game.

Let's just say that, after watching Bush Derangement Syndrome, Obama Worship, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and Biden Worship, I no longer believe that any members of the old mainstream, or drive-by, media are operating in good faith. That's true whether they're pretending to purvey the news or whether they're expanding their customer base by inveigling people into addictive games. They're bad news and best avoided no matter what they're selling.

Image: The classic 15 puzzle game by Kolbkorr. CC BY-SA 4.0.