Fake It To Make It (2017): Alternative Facts and Post-Truth Politics

The United States has the biggest media source of all time. Also because we are such a polarizing entity of a large melting pot rather than a homogenous whole, it is obvious that many opinions will differ. Many seek to capitalize on the difference. Fake It To Make It (2017) by Amanda Warner is a great example of how effective articles on social media are in interfering with finding truths in politics and the modern day news.

The game itself is online and is a super simplified simulation of creating fake news websites to spread misinformation. You are given many customization choices ranging from avatar, materialistic goal, logo, title of website, and more. The overarching goal is that you are making a fake news website with lots of articles and utilizing people of ranging backgrounds to share them. Each article can be marked by political parties or by “neutral” which means that it has nothing to do with the party. The people you choose to share these articles have two prominent features: believability and drama. These are important qualities for you to reach your money goal that is shown in the top right hand corner. However, hashtags and adwords can also contribute to the article’s growth. Tips and goals in the right hand side of the “homepage” of your fake news website leads you in the right direction of earning money while sharing articles. The appeal of having to reach a monetary and materialistic goal as a whole and having small incentivizing goals on the side only compelled me to keep playing the game until there were no more goals to fulfill. The website does not follow real time however it does pass relatively quickly. All the statistics of your website are shown in the top left hand corner along with the details. The homepage itself looks very much like any other website’s homepage which makes it very realistic despite being a simulation. Because this blurs the reality of being a false content creator and a gamer, I can see how the game can transcend the micro level involvement into a macro involvement in terms of affective involvement.

The presence of feedback when sharing an article also mimics real life commentary on news. Some will write, “That’s horrible!” “Who would do that?!” to “Great!” which is something we scroll through daily when browsing social media apps like Facebook. Many of the reactions are symbolic of how people respond emotionally towards clickbait articles. Moreover by using relevant tags and having a person who is of that political party or institution share the article further shuts people within their biases. Technically, they are also stuck in the online filter bubble in that they only see articles that they want to see, further polarizing political parties and other controversial topics.

The simulation made it that much easier to spread fake news which is exactly what the game alludes to. People are easy to believe articles online because it’s readily accessible and convenient. It’s much less work than walking out to the nearby coffeeshop or minimart to buy a physical copy of The New York Times. A simple click will do. Additionally, when a person is biased towards a political party, they are more likely to read about their own party than the opposing’s because it will generate feelings of pleasure. Therefore, true or not, fake news will always reign popular within their respective parties. The articles are nothing more than alternative facts yet people will believe what they want to believe and won’t accept criticisms. The public will be misinformed of what is really occurring in modern day news. I believe that people are also sharing articles for the sake of generating emotions rather than truth. People want to make a dichotomy between parties and they want more people on their side than the enemy’s. Though this may have not been the intention of the creators as in the Macedonian teenagers’ case, it has a significant impact on political parties especially in the U.S.

It also doesn’t help that Donald Trump constantly spreads disinformation everywhere. Many fact-checking websites (such as snopes.com) constantly refute Donald Trump’s statements but these crucial pieces of information are hidden under the numerous fake news. A lesson to learn from this game is to take everything with a grain of salt or to take some time out of your day to research more about a topic before sharing a post on social media. Fake It To Make It therefore is easily an educational game that is highly persuasive.

The game uses procedural rhetoric in the sense that it pulls the gamer into understanding the concept of fake news and the incentive of money that comes with it. Warner shows that even if the creator did not intend to divide people, little actions like creating a fake news website can easily wreck havoc everywhere. The audience must take caution in reading articles that come across their newsfeed. I believe the best step to take is to educate yourself in your own views but also the opposing party’s. Also, to continue checking multiple websites and escaping the filter bubble to widen one’s perspective. It would be great to find the original source of the published facts but that isn’t always the case. If people have time, I would suggest going out to buy the local newspaper or even watch a few broadcasts from popular news stations and not relying solely on the internet.

To be completely honest, when Donald Trump became president in 2016, I was quite shocked. I didn’t think that people believed the news that were posted about him but maybe they had ignored it out of bias. But I also realized that was because I was reading fake news too- fake news about Donald Trump not in the lead or not catching up to Hillary Clinton. I have yet a lot to learn about being careful with reading online articles, but this game was very effective in reminding us that anything can be made into alternative facts and it is up to us to discover what is real and what isn’t.

Works Cited:

Warner 2017, Fake It To Make It, video game, PC games, Amanda Warner.

Nova Alea (2016): A Story of Gentrification

Nova Alea (Molleindustria 2016) is a free downloadable computer game that offers a narrative simulation on the topic of urban housing. It is downloadable across Windows, Mac, and Linux to allow everyone to explore the controversial topic. The narrator prompts the user to follow the story until the very end in which the player can make his or her own choices to come to a result. The game is simplified to show the socioeconomic conditions of urban cities, especially with the rise and fall of the housing bubble bursts, regulations, and the most prominent, gentrification.

“For its dwellers, Nova Alea was a mixture of shelters, connections, memories, longings. For its masters, the city was a matrix of financial abstractions.” -Nova Alea

The story unfolds with the narrator teaching the rules of the game whilst explaining the environment housing’s boom and bust. She will then disappear for you to interactively play the game as the “master” of the city represented by the pink cube floating above the land. This is your tool to buy or sell pieces of land/skyscrapers by tapping on the building and turning it pink. You can click it again later to sell the property, turning it back to its monotone color. Another option you have is to click the hourglass button in the top right hand corner which will allow you to wait a round (or more) until you decide to buy/sell. This option is quite helpful to get profit quickly if you invest in the smaller buildings and press the wait button until it grows to a skyscraper and right before it is destroyed you can sell the property. The narrator will not continue until you have gained a bit of profit so that she can continue the story. She continues saying that the beginning of capitalism reshapes the community, making Nova Alea unrecognizable to its own citizens. Again, she disappears for you to collect more buildings. Your assets are shown on a pink bar to the left of the game. When you earn profit, there will be a number on top of the bar indicating how much you’ve earned. The higher the bar means that you are closer to winning. After a number of more buildings, the narrator returns to address the issue of gentrification. Gentrification as defined by the Merriam-Webster definition is “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents” (merriam-webster.com). The act of buying and reselling causes some residents to move and others to suffer. In the act of creating a wealthy society, the “Weird Folk” settled. The “Weird Folk” are crucial pieces to the game. They are represented by green bouncy blobs and are usually artists or freelancers that cause a new unique organization to the city. The masters or you as the player can either nurture them by letting them stay and bring organic life to the city or click them to destroy them, resulting in more price controls or resistance around the city. These price controls or resistance of the people are indicated by yellow squares above buildings which means that you could not sell immediately. You would have to wait a few rounds and perhaps risk a building being destroyed under your assets. On the right hand side now, you will see a yellow bar which is the people’s chance of winning the game. This is where the ending differs. You can either choose to win as a master, going against all odds to earn profit and build a city made of profit, or win as the people unified by resistance growing against a capitalist city.

This game was easy to understand and follow given the narration. As Egenfeldt-Nielson and other authors write in Understanding Video Games, games are supposed to be “systems” rather than “linear narratives” (Egenfeldt-Nielson, Smith, Tosca). The narrator made sure that as I was winning as the master I would then encounter the narration of the displacement of some of the residents and face simulated organized resistance in the shape of yellow squares. A medium between narrative and game, Nova Alea offers the interactivity of playing the game through its evoked and embedded narratives (Jenkins). The evoked narrative is shown through buying/selling the buildings, making you the controller of the game and creating your own narrative of an urban city. The game graphics are very minimalistic in that all the skyscrapers and buildings could easily represent any urban city. The game does not have to explicitly name a city out of controversy for people to understand the issue of capitalism and gentrification. Therefore I chose to think of New York City (Manhattan) as the patch of land because I am exposed to the problems at hand and because it is a prime area for gentrification. The embedded narrative occurs through the voiceover/narrator who guides you to follow the rules and win either as a master or the people.

The game is very efficient in describing the issue of gentrification through its simulation, allowing for players to delve themselves in the player involvement model (Calleja). The game on a microscopic level deals mostly with ludic and narrative involvements. A player is forced to make choices to continue the narration and flow of the game, either to buy and sell and earn profit for the masters or to buy and let the buildings destroy themselves without collecting profit so that the people can continue to live there through their resistance. Either choice will have its repercussions, depending on which result the player desires. The game also strongly features narrative involvement with the presence of the voiceover. On a macroscopic level, the game can end faster if the player strategically picks the “correct” buildings and if they strategically pick a side of the master or the people. The narrative develops stronger and stronger to present bigger issues not present before as the game comes closer to an end. Arguably, some people may also have a micro and macroscopic affective involvement with the game. However, I think that the simplicity of the game prevented me from being too affectively involved as I was more interested in the telling story of the game and its underlying intent.

Paolo Pedercini, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, created this game in response to the gentrification he faced in Brooklyn, NY (curbed.com). He has since moved to Garfield, PA where he also encounters rapid development (curbed.com). So when I thought of Nova Alea as a template for NYC, I thought of the Lower East Side that used to be rich and diverse with immigrants from all over the world until higher authorities started to build condominiums and raise the rent so that they could no longer live there. The removals of grassroots to make way for the more affluent rich addresses the social issue of the gap in socioeconomic conditions since the reason why some people were forced to move (as the narrator mentions in the game) is because they cannot afford the price raises and must either work harder at their current jobs or move to a different location. Similarly, the “Weird Folk” in the game perfectly portrays the freelancers or artists who have once been attracted to the growing wealth only to have been displaced later on because they too cannot afford it. Though the game effectively addresses the socioeconomic gap, I would have wished for Pedercini to also address the cultural conflict that it is mostly ethnic minorities of low income who previously resided in these areas that have since been removed even if it is controversial.

Despite the omission of the cultural context, the use of the interactive simulation, voiceover narrative, and allusion to the housing boom and bust in urban cities effectively achieved its goal in informing players the gentrification of the different socioeconomic statuses. In fact, it is the first game in the series of the Playable Cities series that Pedercini hopes will educate gamers of the housing dilemmas around the world (Molleindustria 2016). All in all, the immersive patch of land in Nova Alea is what makes it possible to think about the urban housing as we know it without leaving our computer screens.

Works Cited

Calleja, G. In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation. Cambridge: MIT, 2011. 35-46. Print.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S., Smith, J. H., & Tosca, S. P. 2008. Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge – Chapter 3: “What Is A Game?” Print.

Jenkins, H. 2004. Game Design as Narrative Architecture in Wardrip-Fruin, N. – PatHarrigan (eds.) First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, Game. Cambridge: MIT Press. Web.

Molleindustria, 2016, Nova Alea, video game, computer.

Sisson, Patrick. “Video Game about Gentrification Lets You Play the Role of a Real Estate Speculator.” Curbed. Curbed, 10 Aug. 2016. Web.

“Gentrification.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2017.

Tetris (1984)

An avid tetrisfriends.com player, I am surprised how far its history stems back to. “Tetris” (The Tetris Company 1984) is an iconic game created in 1984 in Moscow, Russia. It was developed by Russian scientist Alexey Pajitnov who on his free time apart from studying and creating artificial intelligence loved puzzles and got his inspiration from “Pentominos”, a classic board game. The success of then “Tetris” grew quickly, spreading to IBM PCs in the Soviet Union the following year and later, PCs in North America and Europe (businessinsider.com).

Creator of “Tetris” Alexey Pajitnov

By 1989, industry capitalists claimed the rights to “Tetris” although they didn’t have any to begin with. They mostly distributed the game not only across PCs but across consoles as well. This infuriated the Soviet Union, the true owner of the game, and thus they decided to sell “Tetris” to an organization called “ELORG” which consisted of giving the Atari Games the arcade version and Nintendo the console and handheld version (businessinsider.com).

More importantly, when Nintendo developed “Tetris” for the Game Boy handheld device in 1988 is what changed “Tetris” forever. Roger (a developer for Nintendo) convinced the CEO of Nintendo of America to include the game to be bundled with the Game Boy rather than the company’s very own “Super Mario Bros.” so that it would reach boys and girls and would be fairly accessible. Later, The Tetris Company was formed in 1996 and now holds the rights to all things “Tetris” (businessinsider.com).

Early “Tetris” Gameplay

The gameplay of “Tetris” is fairly easy to pick up, but difficult to master. “Tetris” features geometric shapes that you must stack upon each other and fill up the rows to delete a row so that more “Tetrominos” or four square block pieces can fall down. While one “Tetromino” is falling, you can choose to rotate it if it fits better into the other “Tetrominos” at the bottom so that you can clear a row. However, if the “Tetrominos” fill up the entire screen, then you will lose the game. The game makes it much harder by increasing the speed of which they fall the higher the score. Of course, there are ways that you can maximize your potential in playing “Tetris”. Almost every version since the original will tell you which piece will be coming next. It could be a line, a cube, or some other random shape. In recent versions, you can even “save” a piece by hitting a button on your handheld device or pressing a letter on your computer keyboard. Then, you can use it later when it is deemed necessary. Clearing more lines at once will add more bonuses to your score. To help you differentiate pieces, many games have pattern (older version) or color differences (newer versions). This is the most classical version of Tetris but you can explore many more versions on tetrisfriends.com or newer “Tetris” games in which you can battle others or compete against yourself for the highest score possible.

The word “Tetris” comes from the word “tetra” meaning four and “tennis” which was Pajitnov’s favorite sport (tetris.com). Today, nearly everyone knows what the name “Tetris” is and what it means thanks to its universal marketing through consoles, computers, calculators, phones, and media players (euronews.com). What once was a simple leisure activity is now a classic and strategic puzzle game that has already left its mark on video game history.

Works Cited

Euronews. “Is Tetris the Greatest Computer Game Ever?” Euronews. N.p., 05 June 2013. Web.

Levy, Karyne. “The Complicated History Of ‘Tetris,’ Which Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary Today.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 06 June 2014. Web

The Tetris Company 1984, Tetris, video game, NES, Nintendo.

“About Tetris – Tetris | Official Site.” Tetris. N.p., n.d. Web.