Fake News: The Games

Fake News: The Games

Still confused about fake news?  Well, maybe all you need to do is play.  Both adults and children use play as a learning tool, and over the past few years a handful of good quality online games have been developed around the theme of fake news.  Each one takes a slightly different focus, which gives them a different level of skill and playability.  But most importantly, they’re all FREE, so you can play all of them!

First comes a game developed by FactCheck.org, one of the most reputable sources for seeking out accurate information.  Newsfeed Defenders places you as an admin for a social media news feed.  Your job, as you work your way to the highest administrative level, is to spot and remove fake news items while promoting accurate news stories that match your feed’s purpose.  These can be tricky – you have only a limited amount of time each day to perform tasks, and some stories seem too good to remove.  Newsfeed Defenders comes with additional resources for further research and adaptation in a high school classroom.

Next is a fact-based game that double checks your basic news literacy skills.  Factitious, developed by the American University Game Lab in conjunction with the JoLT Program on the AU campus, is intended to help players identify truth from fiction using real news stories.  The game begins with a round of six news stories, with mostly full text available.  The player is given the option to see the source of the news story and decide if it is real or not.  Winners can post their high scores online, and like Newsfeed Defender this game can be adapted for classroom use.

But let’s say you don’t want to play as the hero – being the villain sounds more fun.  The next game on the list isn’t quite as high minded as the last two.  Bad News places you in a choose-your-own adventure game in which you are spreading fake news.  You are guided through a series of prompts in which you are encouraged to vent about conspiracies, complain about mass media and blame the government for everything.  Each vent and negative/fake Tweet gets you badges and credibility points, while crises of conscience lose points.  Too much second guessing and you lose the game.  The deceptively simple gameplay and short games make this easy to replay often.  Bad News was developed by DROG, a European group of academics, web designers and journalists who work to thwart disinformation at every turn.

Akin to Bad News but with a more amorphous interface is Fake It to Make it.  Designed by freelance game developer Amanda Warner, players set a financial goal and post fake news stories to meet that goal.  The game involves setting up a fake news site, identifying influencers, selecting (or writing) fake news stories and plating them in visible locations.  Eventually, celebrities will repost your stories – and someone will debunk them as well.  But as long as you meet your financial goals, you win.  Right?  The game has no set endpoint, which allows for endless play.

Fake news is very real, but sometimes the easiest way to learn about a difficult topic is to play a game.  All of these games are simple to pick up, hard to put down and might teach you something about fake news while you’re playing.  Want to learn more about developing games?  Interested in fake news?  Ask Us!  iueref@iue.edu

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