Playing Around With Fake News Games

August 20, 2017

A few personal updates: Work has been great and a lot of people in my life showed a lot of support, which was really humbling.

 

But working hard warrants some fun, and I recently discovered this gem: fake news games. Nieman Lab highlighted these games a couple weeks ago. They were created in response to, what else, fake news mania. These games popped up to entertain and, through fun, teach people a thing or two about the news.

 

One of my college roommates was pretty passionate about game design and she asserted how games are great at teaching strategy and even philosophy. We played games as kids to learn colors and memorize geography, so why not have a game that teaches you how well you know the news? The Nieman Lab reported that these games provide key information as to which demographics are particularly vulnerable to fake news. And the hope is that this will teach people about what they don’t know, how to better spot false claims and be skeptical about what they see on the Internet. Perfect for classrooms trying to teach media literacy and for your politically-minded friends who claim that they keep up with the news.

 

I did my best to try out every fake news game I could find, and without further ado, *let’s play:

 

Polititruth

 

This was created by Christopher Cinq-Mars Jarvis who runs a nonprofit, Cinq-Mars Media, that's devoted to education through technology. Politifact is one of the most well-known fact checking sites out there, and Jarvis took advantage of its open source material to create an amazing game.

 

When you pull up the game, you’re presented with a quote that has a claim. The quote includes who said/tweeted/wrote it, their political affiliation if it applies to them, and the platform where the quote was said.

 

Swipe left if the claim is false, swipe right if the claim is true.

 

Then you’ll see if you were right or not, and the screen will present where the quote falls on Politifact’s Truth-o-Meter. At the end of five quotes you’ll see your accuracy rate and how you compare with the other people who play the game. You’ll also see the most common quotes that other players got wrong.

 

Out of all the games I’ve played, this is the only one that makes you try to think if the claim being said is actually true or false. The other games try to get you to understand whether the real headline was coming from a credible source versus a fake news website.

 

Fake News: The Game

If you like the arcade game aesthetic, I would recommend this one created by ISL. I also recommend this one if you like competing under pressure.

 

The goal of the game is to correctly identify whether a real headline from the Internet is from a fake news source or a real news source. Swipe right for real, swipe left for fake. Each round counts down from 60 seconds and for every correct answer a point is added, and for every wrong answer a point is taken away.

 

At the end of each round you review the headlines you just judged and you can access their original sites, as well as tips for identifying and fighting against fake news culture.

 

I felt a little better when I realized that it was actually pretty hard to get to 4 points total. However, being globally ranked in the 900s tells me that as much as I consume news, I can do a lot better.

 

#mmmews

This app originally launched in December by Wall West Ltd in the UK. The company was founded by Alex Petlenko. This one was admittedly a little bit annoying, because there are a lot of ads on this game. They could be taken off with just a dollar, but I’m admittedly cheap. It’s the same deal with the others: swipe right if you think it’s from a real news source, swipe left if you think it’s from a fake one.

 

The game was make in conjunction with Southend News Network, a spoof/satire site like The Onion. If you get enough correct answers, you rise to the rank of Editor-in-Chief. A little comforting considering my current change in career.

 

Facticious

This web browser game was the brainchild of Maggie Farley, a former LA Times  journalist who was a JOLT fellow at American University, and it was designed by AU game professor Bob Home. Same deal: the headline is real, you just have to determine whether it’s from a legit source or a fake one. But in addition to a headline, you get some of the text of the original article and a hint at the bottom that shows you where the article came from.  The pencil at the top also shows you how you’re doing accuracy-wise.

 

Fake It to Make It

This is the most complex game out of all the ones here. It was created by Amanda Warner, who designs creative learning experiences through games, courses and other methods. She wrote that she hopes to make players more aware of how and why fake news is written and distributed, which will make them more skeptical of headlines in the future.

 

So let me walk you through this. You sign up and select a “guide” who kind of acts as your adviser throughout the game. Then you decide if you want to make enough money off your fake news site to get music equipment for your band (idk about you but Nut Graf would be a great band name), apartment or car.

 

After establishing your goals, you create a website and copy fake articles already on the Internet to post on your site. From there, you select which social media groups you can share your fake articles with under fake social media profiles that you set up yourself. There are a lot of other factors that play into this, from tags that indicate which article would appeal to different parties, to the level of believability/drama of each headline.

 

The saddest (and most accurate) part about this game is that the guide encourages you to focus on articles with higher levels of drama rather than believability because they would perform well. Other websites seemed to show that the game even allows you to go into SEO kind of stuff with keywords.

 

Warner created this game with good intentions, but honestly with the right (or wrong) person this could easily get the gears going to create their own actual website.

 

Fake News Real News

 

 

This game is distributed by License 2 Play. Jayson Escrow, the owner of the company, was approached by two game inventors who designed the game after hearing his pitch at a game convention. The game was recently released and I even saw it at a Barnes and Noble, but it’s a bit outdated because of the people portrayed on the cards.

 

Each player gets a set of cards that display the following: Fake News, The President (Donald Trump), Vice President (Mike Pence), White House Press Secretary (Sean Spicer), Chief Strategist (Steve Bannon), Counselor to the President (Kellyanne Conway), Chief of Staff (Reince Priebus), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Ben Carson), and Fake News.

 

Each player takes a turn to pick a new quote card and read a quote that was either fabricated or said at any time during the election up to Trump’s inauguration. The other players put down a card indicating the person they think said the quote or, if they think the quote is fake, the Fake News card. First person to 11 points wins.

 

It’s not the most intuitive game, but it’s easy to play when you get the hang of the rules. This game is particularly good for political buffs. I felt pretty guilty that I had a really hard time remembering the person who said a real quote, and some of the fake quotes are actually pretty convincing.

 

Takeaways

Whether you’re into the news or not, these games are pretty fun. The swiping games are particularly fun because they’re pretty simple and I can see myself playing it while on a train or during a break at work. And perhaps I’m just biased because I’m not the biggest fan of games that take time, but I think that Fake It To Make It is better for a middle school/high school classroom setting. It's useful because high school is when teenagers are technically allowed to have their own accounts, and if teachers really want to spend a segment on teaching media literacy, Fake It To Make It would be a great way to show teenagers the tactics of how fake news begins.

 

But there’s one thing that kept popping up in a lot of the games, and that was frustration at how much I would incorrectly guess a headline as real or misattribute a quote. The games were humbling in that as much as I know a lot of things, I definitely don’t know everything, and that’s kind of the point. I’m just worried that there might be some people who come across these games and are still so thick-skulled that they would refuse to admit that their sense of the news and real information isn’t as good as they think.

 

Still, the ultimate goal of all of these is to sharpen our skepticism and to have some fun along the way, which is exactly what they accomplished for me. As more groups try to hijack fake news to perpetuate their own poorly premised arguments, having a healthy dose of skepticism even in the most trusted sources is important. Gameplay is, frankly, a brilliant and creative way to go about it.

 

*There’s another game in the App Store that centers on Fake News, but the game kept glitching on me so much that I pretty much gave up trying to play. Just like #mmmews, there were a lot of ads so when I did manage to swipe on a headline or two, I couldn’t really smoothly move on.

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