Similar to the games we played for the previous blog post, Fake it to Make it offered an interesting look into a political topic, being fake news in this case. Fake news is a phenomenon that came sweeping into American politics during the most recent election. From an American perspective, this type of news serves to be problematic, spreading fake information and reinforcing false ideologies. The impact it had was immense, as I learned from one of my classes this semester. The estimated influence of fake news made it possible for President Trump to win the election instead of Hillary. Therefore, its political significance is undeniable. However, many of the content creators were not intending to interrupt American politics, they were just trying to earn money. Fake it or Make it makes this financial incentive apparent, through procedural rhetoric. By placing the player in the perspective of a content creator, players are able to understand fake news from a new perspective.
To expand on this, the intent of the creators was not to highlight the content creators but to instead make it possible for people to identify fake news. By having players act in this position, it seems that they were hoping to showcase the issue of fake news instead of the incentive behind it. I gathered this from their explanation of the game. Regardless, the way in which I played the game was from a perspective that understood the intention as being to point out the reasons such news is created.
When you begin the game, you are able to select from one of four characters to “guide” you. They serve as your mentor in the game. After, you enter your name and then you are able to choose a financial goal. For the game I played, I chose the music equipment, as recommended. My financial goal, then, was $200. In order to reach set financial goal, players must create a fake news website, choosing a logo, a layout, and a means of income, which was ads by default for beginners. When you start the game, your mentor sets goals for you and introduces you to the different elements of the game. These elements involve copying articles, using catchy headlines, and then planting the articles on social media sites in the hopes they receive traffic. All the while, players manage their site while they monitor the amount of views, shares, and likes they receive. You can write your own articles, as well. More or less, players manage their website while trying to reach goals, with the ultimate aim being the financial goal set at the beginning. On the track to do so, players gain credibility for their fake news website and post more and more articles with different emotional responses from viewers.
As discussed in the introduction, this game offers a look into the fake news industry, which played a significant role in the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, the game’s socio-cultural context can be understood as indicative of the socio-economic state those who create the content are in. As I learned in my Social Media class, much of the fake news that permeates through America is created by teens in the Balkans. These Macedonian teens have issues making money in the poor economy and are able to make a decent income by creating these sites, copying news, making a catchy headline, and having it spread online. They then collect the money for their own capital gain. Unfortunately, articles on Trump yielded the most profit for these young individuals, so they took the opportunity to capitalize on American politics.
Furthermore, fake news was created for the America as the profit from ads is the best in the American market. In addition to this, the political situation in America was easy to exploit. As the Democratic and Republican parties became increasingly divided, news for or against either candidate gained heavier and heavier traffic. These articles would be shared more, and consequently, viewed more. While the content creators made an income, false ideologies were being spread around America and people were not looking for the signs of falsity, as the concept caught America off-guard.
Altogether, the game highlighted the incentives behind creating fake news and the methods in which content creators go about making it in the context of American politics.
I thought the game was very effective in displaying the innocence of creating fake news. Thrown amongst the political news were stories on health trends, on cute puppies, and so forth. This displayed the potential topics in which content can be created for financial gain. However, it was apparent that the American political topics gained the most views, shares, and likes. In doing so, the believability of fake news was shown in an attempt to express the need for readers to make sure the news they are reading is trustworthy and true.