Fake It Till You Make It

The game Fake it Till you Make it is a simulation-style, social impact game created by Amanda Warner. In the beginning of the game, you are presented with four available avatars to choose from. After stating your name, you must choose one of three things to save up for, and later purchase. You can either purchase music equipment ($200), a deposit for your first apartment ($400), or a used car ($1000). After making a selection, you find out that you are to make money by creating a fake news website. The money comes from people clicking and viewing the ads on your page. Your job is to generate enough traffic on your website to reach your money goal. According to the website, this should be easy, because “you aren’t as constrained by facts.” Throughout the game, you are presented with some goals to guide you in the right direction. Goals include making a site, adding articles, getting one of your articles to go viral, and then eventually creating multiple websites. In terms of the articles you are putting on your website, you can either create them or copy them. Every article comes with a believability and a drama rating. They also contain tags that are associated with either the orange or the purple political parties. The player has the option to make articles very dramatic, very serious and believable, or preferably, both. Only when articles have high ratings in both believability and drama can they become viral. The more attention and traffic your article generates, the more you earn.

Amanda Warner created the game so that players “leave with a better understanding of how misinformation is created, spread, and emotionally targeted so that they are more skeptical of information that they encounter in the future.” In today’s world, we spend so much time looking at computer screens. We are constantly bombarded with news and articles, but we don’t know what’s real and what’s not. For us, seeing an article on different forums, or websites gives it a sense of legitimacy or credibility. This trust is misplaced. In the game, you can literally copy fake news from other sites and publish them on your own website. The same fake news, in different forums.

Amanda goes on to say that the game is based on real live events. Particularly the events regarding the Macedonian teenagers who made a profit by spreading fake news regarding the presidential election in 2016. One teenager, Dimitri (did not give permission to use his real name) made over sixty thousand dollars in less than six months. He posted articles on Facebook wanting to make them go viral. According to him, his two most famous headlines read, “JUST IN: Obama Illegally Transferred DOJ Money to Clinton Campaign!” and “BREAKING: Obama Confirms Refusal To Leave White House, He Will Stay In Power!” Upon reading the headline, one can easily point out the fallacies in such headlines, but that is not what matters to people like Dimitri. Seeing such headlines is sure to draw your attention, and make you want to read it. That’s what they want. They want the click-through so that they could make money off the ads.

Although Warner’s goal for the game was to evoke fear or some type of skepticism in its player, and the end of the day, this is an educational game. Upon completion, which in this game, comes in the form of reaching a money goal, the player leaves with a good understanding of how the process works. From using article tags to cater your articles to specific types of people, to using trending topics to make articles go viral, playing the game gave me a better idea on how to make money with the publishing of fake news. Warner stated that this may be an unexpected effect of the game. Instead of making players skeptical on news articles we see, it might have taught, and inspired players to try to make money by playing Fake It Till You Make It in real life.

It is rather interesting how much the internet facilitates the process of publishing on fake news. This is a process that would be near impossible a few decades ago. There are many reasons why. First, spreading that much information to that much people would have been near impossible without spending an insane amount of money. Today, one can simply use WordPress to create an article or a website and then use social media to publish it, both which are basically free. Second, by using the internet and social media, you already have an audience that, if you play your cards right, is willing to listen. Also, because this audience is so broad, and because you can have some sort of anonymity, reputations are more expendable. The last reason deals with legality. Because spreading new would have been so expensive, and inefficient without the internet, not a lot of publishers could do it. The few that did have the resources usually followed the law because they knew that spreading fake news would probably result in a lawsuit.

After playing the game, I was left wondering how I was personally affected by fake news. As someone who spends hours on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms every day, I know that I am exposed to fake news. But how often? How often do people get exposed to fake news? Well, the spread of fake news saw a drastic increase in 2016, due to the presidential election. People started using fake news to bend the truth for political gain. Small groups of people would create hyperbolic articles regarding the election to evoke emotion. A kind of emotion that would drive action. The 2016 election resulted in such a spike of fake news in large part because of how dynamic a character Donald Trump is. When Donald Trump, the person who would go on to become the president of the United States suggests that Obama was not born in the United States, or that Climate change is a hoax, you, as a news reader, become more receptive to truth distortion or hyperbole because with Donald Trump’s character, you simply don’t know what to expect.

Overall, I had a great time playing the game, and I’m now much more skeptical of all the information I encounter.

Cites:

  1. Carson, James. “What is fake news? Its origins and how it grew in 2016.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 08 Feb. 2017. Web. 09 May 2017.
  2. Smith, Alexander, and Vladimir Banic. “Fake News: How a Partying Macedonian Teen Earns Thousands Publishing Lies.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 09 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.
  3. Warner, Amanda. “Fake It Till You Make It .” Amanda Warner. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
  4. Silverman, Craig. “Fake News Expert On How False Stories Spread And Why People Believe Them.” NPR. NPR, 14 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.
  5. Akpan, Nsikan. “The very real consequences of fake news stories and why your brain can’t ignore them.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 5 Dec. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.

 

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No Choice: Texas

Many people play games to escape from the tough reality they live in, those people should not play Choice: Texas. Choice Texas is an educational, interactive browser-based game. Unlike many games, Choice: Texas explores the unapologetic reality we live in and one of its biggest problems, abortion, and reproductive healthcare, in the state of Texas. In Texas, abortion is legal. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to get it done legally as it is very expensive, and the government is cracking down on abortion laws, making it even harder to get an abortion. In the game, you start out by choosing one of five women- Latrice, Leah, Alex, Jess, or Maria.  The women come from a variety of different demographic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Nonetheless, they all have one thing is common, they all are struggling to make a decision regarding their respective pregnancies. After choosing a woman, you are introduced to her story. As the player, you are to put yourself in the woman’s shoes and make her decisions for her, knowing that each decision you make will drastically alter her future. Because each woman is so different, and their stories so dissimilar, I played as each of the five women, to see how things would play out.

Playing as Latrice 

Latrice was a dark-skinned, curly-haired girl. When she got pregnant, it came as a surprise. In fact, Latrice didn’t want to have a child. Her partner and her career were about to blossom. But she was conflicted, saying “we were older now and… she and Roy’s careers were more stable now. Maybe they could make it work if they wanted to.” So, after telling Roy (her husband) about her pregnancy, we (the player) are presented with our first choice. Roy asks Latrice what she wanted to do with the baby. I chose to have Latrice tell Roy she wanted to keep it. As the story goes on, new information, like the fact that Latrice will probably have to quit her job if she decides to have the baby, arises, and the player has multiple chances to change his mind on the pregnancy. But I analyzed Latrice and Roy’s relationship and believed they would make great parents. In the end, Latrice delivers a beautiful baby boy. Latrice’s story is one that happens very often. A story in which a professional couple falls in love and inadvertently become pregnant, and are forced to choose between their child and their career. As I player, I was not willing to sacrifice the child for Roy and Latrice’s career.

Playing as Leah 

There were some noticeable differences between playing as Leah and playing as Latrice. Leah doesn’t know what happened the night she got pregnant. She worked behind a bar and had gotten dizzy. Mr. Thompson, her supervisor, said he’d made sure she got home safe, but she had woken up in a truck, panties missing and her thighs bruised. She had tried not to think about it, but two months later, she was pregnant. Nonetheless, she is very healthy and could deliver a beautiful child. So, I chose to let her go on with the pregnancy, but I decided to have her put the baby up for adoption. Eventually, Leah’s water breaks, and after holding her daughter for just five minutes, she’s not sure she’s ever going to be willing to let her go. The toughest decision of game presents himself when the player must decide, one last time, whether to keep the baby. After much thought, Leah commits to Adoption. Time passes, and there hasn’t been a day when Leah hasn’t thought about her baby. Leah knew it would be hard to give up her baby, but she didn’t realize just how difficult it would be to keep the child out of her mind. This story explored a different side to abortion, and reproductive health care- its connection to rape. It’s so sad that so many women, like Leah, get raped, and in the process, can end up pregnant. The child has absolutely no fault, yet for the mother, serves as a constant reminder of what is perhaps her most painful experience. I could not let Leah get an abortion, but I also couldn’t let her go through that pain of the constant reminder, adoption seemed like the best course of action.

Playing as Alex

Alex, at only 17 years’ old, was the youngest of the five women in the game. She is in her senior year in high school and is a student athlete. She is expecting to receive multiple offers and scholarships. So, when she is surprised with her pregnancy, she is afraid it will prevent her from doing all of this. When shares the news with Eric, the father, he responds by saying, “What the Hell, I used a condom.” Eric continues, saying that he’s “not going to let [her] drag [him] down if [they’re] going to keep it. I’ll pay support or whatever if I have to, I guess, but I’m not going to be involved.” Alex is shocked and still confused. But as the player, who ultimately makes the decisions for her, I determined that these were no conditions to bring a baby into the world. And decided that Alex will have an abortion. Over time, after the abortion, things settled down for Alex, and the college acceptances and scholarships started rolling in. She’s going to Stanford on a full-ride, the life she’s always dreamed. Out of the five stories, this had the happiest ending.

Playing as Jess 

Jess had short, red hair and glasses. She, unlike many of the others, had a husband, and they both wanted the baby for a long time. But after nineteen weeks, the pregnancy was in danger. The baby had damage in her lungs and kidneys. It was so bad that the doctors told them that they should consider terminating. Jess was devastated, everything was perfectly set out for them to have a baby now- the new house, the stable career, but none of the that mattered now. Jess had never considered abortion but was pro-choice. Later, Richard, her husband, tells jess that maybe they should have an abortion- because he doesn’t want to see the baby suffer. So, as my first choice, I decide that Jess must have an abortion. One year passes, and Jess and her husband are looking at the ultrasound of their new healthy, beautiful baby boy.

Playing as Maria 

Maria was the oldest of the bunch. In fact, she already has three children. Like Jess, Maria is also married to a man named Miguel. Out of the five women, Maria seems to be the one that most struggles financially. When she confirms her pregnancy, she tells Miguel- who takes it well. He seems to want the child. But Maria is afraid due to financial reasons, they can barely afford three kids, imagine four. She tells Miguel about abortion, he is startled, telling her, “were catholic.” Miguel leaves angry and decides to think it over and comes back some time later and decides the abortion is perhaps the best option.  After the abortion; months pass and Maria looks at her family, her complete family. She knows she has made the right decision. Maria as a character and her story were ones that I found to be most strayed from the rest of the women. Maria being of age shows a different side to reproductive health. The fact that she’s not financially stable also presents another issue. As a parent, and in this case, as a player, one must figure out if they can truly provide for their children, and in this case, I didn’t think Maria and Miguel could, and it led to abortion.

In the game, everything came down to one of three options. You could either let the couple have the baby, you could put up the baby for adoption, or you could abort.  The effectiveness and success of this game lie in its ability to establish a connection, or a point of interest, between the player, and the stories. Through this point of connection, the player is then educated about reproductive health- which I believe to be the overall goal of the game developers Allyson Whipple and Carly Kocurek; all passionate feminists. However, for a player like me, it was very hard to identify that point of connection. Through my experience playing the game, I kept feeling uneasy. Putting myself in the shoes of the women made me realize how hard the decisions I had to make were. It put me in a very awkward situation, and in return, I felt sympathy for all the people that share these kinds of stories and have to make these types of decisions.

 

 

References:

  1. Kocurek, Carly, and Allyson Whipper. “Play | Choice: Texas.” Play | Choice: Texas. N.p., 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
  2. Campbell, Colin. “Choice: Texas brings abortion, controversy to gaming.” Polygon. Polygon, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

NBA Jam 1993′

As one of the earliest real playable basketball games, NBA Jam was developed in 1993 by Midway, an American video game developer that defunct in 2010. The game is also one of the first sports games to feature NBA-licensed teams and players. NBA Jam features two-on-two basketball. This allows for up to four players to play the game simultaneously. There would be two teams of two. Upon turning on the game, you are presented with 27 teams (The Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, and New Orleans Pelicans had not been created). Two players have been pre-selected from every team, and below them, stats on their speed, 3-point shot, dunks, and defense are shown. When the game came out in 1993, Michael Jordan (At the time, the most famous basketball player), was part of the Chicago Bulls. However, he left the NBA for a year in 1994 and so only the earliest versions of the game had Michael Jordan. In terms of game play, it doesn’t take long to notice the exaggerated nature of play. Often reaching heights multiple times their own, and running at the speeds of Olympic runners, the players are given abilities that defy all human anatomy. To make the game even more fun, if a player makes 3 baskets in a row, he then catches “On Fire”, at which point, his chances of making shots increases and his turbo becomes unlimited. The game deviates itself from the NBA when it came to rules because unlike the NBA, in NBA jam, there are no fouls, no free throws, or violations (except for the 24-sec violation). Additionally, in the NBA, each quarter is 12 minutes, in NBA Jam, this shrinks to only 3 minutes.

 

When NBA Jam released in 1993, it became a huge success. So much so, that by early 1994, the Amusement and Music Operators Association had declared NBA Jam The highest earning arcade game of all time. The game brought in over $1 billion quarters. Due to this huge success, sequels were created, and NBA Jam Extreme (1996) and NBA Jam 99 (1998) came out. NBA Jam now has 8 games in its series. The game has definitely left its mark on the Video Game world (It was ranked as the 7th best game of all time by SEGA), but it has also left its mark in today’s basketball culture. Often, when visiting a basketball court, one does not need to stay there for more than 15 minutes to hear the phrases “He’s on fire”, or “Boomshakalaka”. These are both catchy phrases that came from the game. Almost 25 years after its creation, I don’t know how many players still play the original NBA Jam game, but I do know that NBA Jam has been forever immortalized in basketball courts around the world.