You Have to Fake it to Make it (Alex Wolmart)

Fake news is one of the most controversial and polarizing issues flooding not only the United States, but the deceptive internet phenomenon has taken an international online presence. But, of course, the United States is the most frequently sited source of fake news and the controversy that generates around it. At the very start of the game, in what can be equated to as the preface or the introduction of the game, after selecting your avatar, his/her name, and the monetary goal (band equipment, car, etc.) the very first sentence of the second paragraph in this “preface” reads, “Your sites are going to be targeting people in the United States. Why? Well, because views and clicks from people in this country are paid at a higher rate than in other countries. You might not care about American politics, but you can still use its drama to profit!” (Fake it to Make it, 2017). Even fake news creators from other parts of the world thrive off the American mentality and vulnerability to the issue. They use the clear-cut well defined division between the two political parties to generate hate and fear.

Fake it to Make it, from the gameplay, to the “about screen,” even to the title of the game, all aspects of this deeply unique and interesting experience greatly reflects the entire concept of fake news in society. The first part of the gameplay to discuss is the selection/customization process that takes place when beginning your fake news organization. Everything, from the name and logo of the site to the domain, theme, and monetization is created, carefully and systematically by you, the gamer. This is a simulated process of what real fake news sites creators do. They carefully, and creatively at times, select and use every aspect of this customization to radiate both more credibility and more drama – two things in the game that drive the success of your articles and ultimately your site. The game rates the success, or potential success, of the articles your using on two scores out of twenty, credibility and drama.

After selecting your choice of avatar, you select what it is that your attempting to purchase – in a sense the goal of your fake news site – and the player can choose from three different purchases, equipment for your band, an apartment, and a car. In a sense this choice in the beginning phase of the game is representative of one of the many motives – probably the most major one as well – that fake news creators have when creating their content, money. Arguably so, the two major points of motivation for fake news site creators are money and fame. Money motivates the majority of the world and the people within it. It drives people to do ridiculous and sometimes unspeakable things that may compromise their ethics and morals. What makes these fake news sites and the creators of them any different? That is, in fact, the primary goal in Fake it to Make it. Every time you receive a new “goal” in the checklist on the left hand side of the screen and those sets of instructions, it claims how the main objective of these “goals” is getting clicks that inevitably get money to hopefully buy that virtual band equipment, apartment, or car. In the very first sentence of the introduction/preface – mentioned earlier – it states, “You will be making money by creating news sites and profiting when people view and click on ads on your site. It’s pretty easy as long as you can generate enough traffic,” (Fake it to Make it, 2017). The very first thing the gamer reads as instructions are how you need to make money to win.

The money and fame go hand in hand. They are, in a sense, dependent on one another as two parts to a fake news creator’s profile. Fame means followers, followers means more people coming to their site, therefore more people clicking on advertisements and generating money. While these site creators may not be looking for the absurd fame that A-list celebrities receive – unrealistic for many modern news establishments – what they are indeed looking for is recognition. These creators may be very satisfied with thousands of dollars but they may be just as satisfied with a million and a half followers on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Followers are money to these creators, it’s how they receive all the traffic to their site and ultimately all their revenue, through the click-bait advertisements they display. These fake news creators thrive off of controversy, fear, and anger. They generate more of this when more people decide to share, like, and comment on the video by contributing to the conversation. Ultimately, this a large factor behind how these “bot farms” come into play. The bot farms – of which have garnered greater popularity due to their involvement and connection with Russia and the 2016 U.S Presidential Election – are a bunch of people hired to sit on computers, generate fake Facebook profiles, and “contribute to the conversation” by either playing devil’s advocate or adding on to the argument being made on the post by the original fake news source. They generate this controversy, frustration, and fear that has been driving the mainstream media and the opinion of so many people not only in American society, but in countries all over the world. Again, these fake news site creators prosper and feed off of these emotions of dread and animosity. After beginning the game and creating all the specific details to your fake site, you receive goals throughout that keep you going on a set path. You can’t move on to the next goal until you’ve completed the one the game has already assigned. After completing the first four goals, the gamer receives two goals one after another, “Plant an article that triggers fear,” and, “Plant an article that triggers happiness.” Every time, of course, the articles that trigger fear receives multiple times more attention, emotional response, and therefore money than the articles that trigger happiness. It’s upsetting when thought about but it’s truly how fake news in the real world functions, anger and fear generates more response, clicks, and money than happiness and positive emotions.

Fake it to Make it is a socially conscious game that satirically uses the fake news problem in society today to inadvertently explain how we can not only recognize fake news, but also prevent it from becoming something that we are exposed to. Fake news is not very influential in gaming media or the gaming community as it plays a much larger role in politics more than any other field. It has been, and can be, said that fake news was a primary force behind the victory of Donald Trump. Stories such as the radical white-supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan supporting Hillary Clinton or the Pope endorsing Donald Trump were some of the most popular stories of election season and that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Fake news has more of an impact on our society than many care to admit, and the game Fake it to Make it greatly emphasizes and shows the workings of such an intricate issue.

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