I’m excited to announce the release of Fake It To Make It, a simulation-style, social-impact game about how fake news for a profit is created and distributed.
If you want to play, I’d advise doing so now, before reading the rest of this post. I’m going to talk about the design and strategy, including stuff that’s probably more fun to unweave while playing.
(In other words, SPOILER ALERT!)
In this game, you take on the role of someone spreading misinformation. While the gameplay is more generalized, it was inspired by the Macedonian teens who profited from fake news leading up to the 2016 US elections.
You begin the game by selecting a modest financial goal and setting up your first site. Then you start copying and spreading fake news articles using created or purchased social media accounts.
A set of intermediate goals guide you through the mechanics, from targeting emotions to eventually writing articles and trending topics. While you aren’t forced to do so, writing political articles with lots of drama and posting them to politically sympathetic groups is definitely an encouraged strategy. Why? Because people like to read things that confirm their existing beliefs and fears. That’s how you profit off of people’s political biases! (In case you were wondering, no, I wasn’t only writing about the game just now.)
The text, graphics, and music all reinforce a cheerful, lighthearted theme. You, after all, aren’t a villain with sinister motives who actually cares about the impact of fake news. Like many others, you are just conducting business!
While the impact of fake news isn’t a major focus, it does appear in periodic special feedback if articles with certain themes become more popular. For example, if you have a virally popular article about “certain people” who are dangerous…. well, hate crimes against those certain people seem to be rising. But, alas, that’s business!
(In case you were wondering, I’m actually terrified by the impact of fake news.)
After playing this game, my hope is that you (and other players, clearly) will be better equipped to understand why and how fake news is created and distributed, and you (and they!) will be more skeptical of misinformation that you encounter in the future.
(Also, I hope that you won’t become a fake news generator yourself. Pretty please don’t do that.)
The outcome map below shows the beliefs, actions, and outcomes that I was targeting with the gameplay.
Fake It To Make It is a personal project of mine, fueled by my concern about increasing acceptance and distribution of misinformation.
If you want to use the game in a class or a presentation, you have my permission. Please just send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I know that it was useful and can gather feedback.
If you haven’t already, go play!