This free game puts you in the shoes of a fake news peddler
Out on the Internet, there is a new, free game seeking to show how fake news peddlers operate online.
Called Fake It to Make It, the game is touted as a social impact game that simulates an online fake news operation.
In a blog post, game designer Amanda Warner explained the inspiration for the game came from Macedonian teenagers who used fake news to make money in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.
Beginning with a small amount of resources, you have a simple objective and the time you need to get there. The question is, what are you willing to do to make your target amount of money over the course of the game to "win" it?
The moneymaking scheme
After setting a target monetary goal, you are introduced to your moneymaking scheme: You will build a website (or network of websites) that spreads fake news.
As your tutor rationalizes for you, "Fake news takes less time to create, and it often spreads better than real news, since you aren’t as constrained by facts."
You are then introduced to your initial goal: to set up your fake news site with a minimum credibility rating of 30. You choose the name of your website, the logo, the choice of a free domain or a paid domain to start, and the theme and monetization system for your operation.
Speaking of monetization, the game begins by forcing you to earn from ads, but teases you with other potential skills to earn your keep.
Beyond this, you get to the meat of the game: "creating" content and earning money by "planting" them on social media profiles you've bought off , sharing them on the profile's groups, and then reaping the revenue as you observe the shares of your content take off.
As I slowly made money and got tips and advisories from my tutor, I realized a couple of things while playing.
First, the money earned at the start is small compared to the time investment. It takes a lot of targeted fake news peddling to earn even $200 from a starting seed of $50. Your reason for peddling fake news may be legitimate, such as paying for your apartment, but the very means by which the player earns his money is fraught with peril.
As such, it is likely those entities who want to make a career by investing in operations for creating and peddling fake news that make the most gains over time.
Second, the game teaches you not only to manipulate the political landscape, but also people's feelings. You do this by taking content that isn't yours and repurposing it without the express permission of the content creator.
In reality, this happens on social media a lot, such when you see inspiration or pet videos that are stolen from content creators, and then edited to have borders or additional text to hide content watermarks and skirt copyright monitoring systems.
Lastly, and this is perhaps the most telling bit: despite the nitty-gritty of wielding fake news like a hammer to strike gold on the Internet, the actual method of making money from fake news is likely more complex.
As the game progresses, the tutor introduces you to new methods of money generation. For instance, after learning how to make people happy and spread fear, you are given the ability to "write" your own content by choosing an article base and supporting statements to stir up drama by sharing it.
Going back to the monetization options, aside from ads the player is also teased by the prospect of making money by taking people's information and selling it to companies or installing malware on other people's computers. While none of the things you choose in the game have a real-world impact, the three moneymaking schemes on offer actually do happen in the real world, sometimes to ill effect for readers of fake news.
All in all, the game is effective as a smart exercise in understanding how fake news plays out. It's also a chilling reminder that the entire phenomenon of fake news operations is out there and actually happening, and we all have to be more discerning of the media we consume and where we get our information from.
The game is free for everyone to play by going to http://www.fakeittomakeitgame.com/ on their browsers.
Additional information and resources for learning about the perils of fake news can be found on the game's About page. – Rappler.com