The world of online journalism is a crazy and dangerous one. Depending on the site you're reading, it can be hard to vouch for credibility. For that reason, if one person shares a fake news story on their Facebook, it can be pretty easy for that article to spread. And for it to be conflated with the truth.
That's something Fake It To Make It satirizes. The game's designer, Amanda Warner, cites "the Macedonian teeangers who profited from fake news leading up to the 2016 election in the United States" as her main inspiration for the game. They profited off fake news outlets that appear real, but actually aren't.
Fake It To Make It tasks players with creating a fake news site that copies, writes, and plants articles to get more views and shares. The more controversial and dramatic the material, the better: and US politics tend to do really well.
The process is straightforward. The more likely a site seems credible, and the more dramatic its material, the more likely that Americans will share. The more clicks, and the more ads interacted with, the more money that can be invested back into the site. The goal, of course, isn't to spread political beliefs: it's simply to make money. Which is exactly the underlying motivation behind many fake news websites.
"My hope is that by making players more aware of how and why fake news is written and distributed, that they will be more skeptical of what they encounter in the future. In general, I think that better understanding how and why we are manipulated by others, for profit or power, is worthwhile knowledge to have."
Why It Matters
Fake news first came under scrutiny shortly after the 2016 US election, in which Donald Trump became the next US president. Journalists realized that "fake news" was partly to blame -- sites were suggesting that President Obama was entwined in hidden internal controversies, and that Hillary Clinton was a fraud that should be "locked up" for mishandling her email setup.
Fake It To Make It doesn't play favorites, though. While it's clear the game is replicating the two party system in the United States -- the Orange Party hates the current president, whereas the Purple Party is supporting the current president -- Fake It To Make It also blames both sides of the political spectrum for the fake news problem. It isn't just far-right articles to blame; the left is just as susceptible to fake news, too.
The game looks at the fundamental creation of article writing in order to dissect it. There's argument creation, there's choosing SEOs, there's forming a title, and there's carefully choosing where (and how) to plant an article for public traction. Those are all skills that practically any news outlet uses -- but for fake news, those concepts are the life blood for articles, giving them the legs to be shared across social media.
Fake It To Make It is a scary game. It exposes a lot about the darker side of today's social media craze. But it also shows that the concepts behind fake news -- the outrage, the plea for readers' emotions, the lack of credible information, and the sheer bigotry involved -- can be identified. It can be fought. It can be understood and pushed aside.
That's a pretty powerful thing. And games like this with an underlying message aren't just entertaining, they're also thought-provoking. That's important.
How do you feel about Fake It To Make It? Does it accurately reflect the fake news problem? Share your thoughts in the comments below.