Researchers from Cambridge University have developed a free online game to help people understand how fake media outlets operate and spread deception.
Called “Bad News”, the game was completed in partnership with DROG, a Dutch company that focuses on stamping out disinformation.
The game is part of a study to be published in the Journal of Risk Research.
“The Bad News game confers resistance against bad online information by putting players in the position of the people who create it,” the creators state on their official information sheet.
The game simulates a world in which the player competes to become a “disinformation and fake news tycoon”.
Players hire Twitter bots, create fake profiles and concoct conspiracy theories in an attempt to distort the truth and divide the united.
The game gives you tips on how to construct a believable lie, ways to stir up emotion, and a step-by-step guide on how to undermine the credibility of fact-checking sites and journalists who might attack you.
“The idea is that once you’ve seen the tactics, and used them in the game, you build up resistance,” Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, told The Guardian.
“We want the public to learn what these people are doing by walking in their shoes.”
You complete the game by earning badges in 6 categories:
“Impersonation”, in which you build credibility by mimicking the facade of a real news outlet or posing as a personality.
“Emotion”, in which you test your ability to rile up and outrage your audience.
“Polarization”, in which you create memes or snappy headlines to purposely stir up discussion and widen the gap between political ideologies.
“Conspiracy”, in which players build stories to sow doubt in the official narratives and institutions.
“Discredit”, in which you have to attack real news outlets to diverge the attention from your lies.
And “Trolling”, in which you have to create a bait powerful enough to provoke a reaction from legitimate media, thus, legitimising yourself.
So, do these guys risk opening the floodgates of hell by revealing the entire recipe for “bad news” to the public?
“I think it’s worth taking the risk given how many people we could educate with this,” van der Linden says.
The game is suitable for ages 14 and up, takes some 15-20 minutes to complete and can be played for free on any browser.
There’s even an information sheet offering resources to educators looking to use the game in the classroom.