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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Parable of the Polygons

By Alex Wolmart

Parable of the Polygons touches upon things that go far beyond just the video games industry. Especially in the United States and following the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as the most powerful man in the free world. Interestingly and brilliantly so, this “experience” is a combination of both a game and a blog post. It does with great effectivity as an educational game/tool and as a piece of analysis upon our society. Formatted as an article with several different mini-games placed without to stimulate a form of “hands-on” learning, Parable of the Polygons draws from Nobel Prize winning game theorist Thomas Schilling’s neighborhood segregation model. But one of the greatest disagreements that I can extract comes right at the beginning when they claim there overall “mission statement,” “how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” In theory, this makes a great amount of sense – and it is still true on many levels – but I believe the worst of our society, the greatest collective bias, arises out of people with their only intention on being harmful and bias because that is how they were taught. This made itself most evident during this past presidential election, both during the primaries and the general election. There was an unprecedented sum of bias and racism floating throughout the United States, more so during the general election when Donald Trump ramped up his campaigning and aggression towards both Hilary Clinton and his own policies. The worst of it was seen at Trump’s campaign rallies that grew in chaos more and more throughout the election, and this is where you saw U.S citizens displaying their collective bias to their neighbors with harmful intentions. These people didn’t exercise their right to be bias with different or positive intentions in mind – it was not a harmless choice – rather it was a choice made out of spite.

Parable of the Polygons was created during a particularly interesting, rather confusing, and somewhat chaotic time in the recent history of the United States, especially since 9/11, the year 2014. Seemingly enough all of the pent up frustration and “bottled up” racism that was in the underbelly of our society for years all burst out during this time. In the summer of 2014 the killings of two unarmed  Black men – Eric Garner and Michael Brown – as a consequence of police brutality resulted in nationwide outrage, protests, and riots particularly in Ferguson Missouri after the death of Michael Brown in August. The treatment these police officers showed these men were, in a sense, representative of the way we treat our own citizens in American society. And what emerged out of these events was what is known as the Black Lives Matter Movement, a movement today that is still strong and representative of these problems in the country. Even one of the creators, Vi Hart, talked about how they most certainly did not expect this game to become more relevant after they began creating it. It shows how the issue is not only not improving, but rather it’s getting worse. Another type of bias, particularly in the video games industry, also arose during the summer of 2014 in the form of #Gamergate. Gamergate – which was going on during the same time the creators first met and began to discuss ideas around Parable of the Polygons – displayed the harsh and unequal treatment/representation of women as both gamers and executives in the game industry. Granted, this “burst” of social change has made some differences but there is still much to be done. This idea of progress made but much more to be done is directly referenced and touched upon in the “wrapping up” section of the Parable of the Polygons when Vi Hart and Nicky Case make three concluding points. In one of the points, “the past haunts the present,” they claim, “Your bedroom floor doesn’t stop being dirty just coz you stopped dropping food all over the carpet. Creating equality is like staying clean: it takes work. And it’s always a work in progress,” (Hart, Case, Parable of the Polygon 2014). While it may be a little trivial to boil an institutional problem contained within the underbelly of American society down to a metaphor about cleaning your room, it is still remarkably effective. If we truly care about keeping our room clean, then we wouldn’t sit back and hope the room will clean itself or somebody else will do it for us.   

Parable of the Polygons differentiates between bias, un-bias, and anti-bias. This is shown  in the middle of the blog post when they state, “In a world where bias ever existed, being unbiased isn’t enough! We’re gonna need active measures,” (Hart, Case Parable of the Polygon 2014). In an inherently bias society, simply not being bias, or being “un-bias,” is just not enough but rather it takes active “anti-bias” for the overall idea of bias and segregation to be diminished or completely obliterated, and this is shown in the later board simulations displaying the charts on the sides with segregation on the y axis and time on the x axis. You can chose the percentage that determines at what point the shapes will have the urge to move. By lowering the meter below 33% you are displaying active “anti-bias” and the table will then show how the segregation can be “reversed.” Another powerful section comes right after the first large simulation board when the authors are discussing how “small individual bias can lead to large collective bias.” In this section there is one triangle that is unhappy while the rest are and to make it so that all of the shapes are happy the gamer must change the mixed pattern between square and triangle into a segregated board with squares on one side and triangles on the other. The one triangle – in individual bias – caused a segregation of the entire group, a collective bias. This is a mirror of the conformity our society faces. When an individual sees all of their friends, family, and/or colleagues supporting something it’s instinctual for them to join rather than be “left out” of the group. Even the title of the game shows the message the authors are attempting to send. A parable is a simple story or anecdote used to illustrate a moral and/or spiritual lesson, and that is exactly what this game does. Parable of the Polygon elegantly uses simplicity to explore a deep and complex issue in American society, and we see this most towards the end when the creators give us a “call to action” type of conclusion with the rainbow box. Figuring this part out is probably the most difficult thing as it represents the achievement of a truly inclusive society, “All it takes is a change in the perception of what an acceptable environment looks like. So, fellow shapes, remember it’s not about triangles vs squares, it’s about deciding what we want the world to look like, and settling for no less…by working together, step by step, we’ll get there.” The gamer has to drag one square and one triangle inch by inch, together, until all four are in the rainbow cube. It is a literal depiction of achieving an completely un-bias society step by step with different types of people working together. The creators establish a simple, yet difficult, solution just as they used a simple idea to portray and speak upon an issue in American society that is far from simplistic. The time of a 100% inclusive society may never come, but Parable of the Polygon surely does make it seem not only possible, but simple, as long as enough of us partake in “active measures” of anti-bias.     

Works Cited

Hart, Vi. “Parable of the Polygons.” Parable of the Polygons. N.p., 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017. <http://ncase.me/polygons/&gt;.

Bliss, Laura. “An Immersive Game Shows How Easily Segregation Arises-and How We Might Fix It.” CityLab. The Atlantic Citylab, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017. <http:// www.citylab.com/design/2014/12/an-immersive-game-shows-how-easily-segregation- arisesand-how-we-might-fix-it/383586/>.

Tecmo Super Bowl (1991)

Released in 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl – along with its predecessor Tecmo Bowl (released in 1987) – have become an iconic depiction of an American sports game, particularly American football, yet was created and developed by Japanese video games company, Tecmo. Granted, Japanese corporations have developed the most successful video game franchises and consoles in history from Nintendo’s Mario and Legend of Zelda to Sony’s Playstation consoles. But it is different when it comes to sports games, particularly American sports, as close to every single largely successful sports game franchise was created and developed by an American video game company. The most popular sports games on the market, NBA 2K, FIFA (the most popular with over 100 million copies sold), Madden, NHL, and NASCAR have always been created and developed by the American video games company Electronic Arts under their sports brand EA Sports. Their slogan, “It’s in the game!” has become iconic amongst the North American sports video gamimg community. Even the lesser successful titles such as NBA Jam and NFL Blitz were created by American video game company Midway Games. And the fact that Tecmo Super Bowl has had such an impact on sports games now, and it’s fans – with a continued devoted following after all of these years, is quite something.

Tecmo created, developed, and released the first very commercially successful American football game. Even with John Madden Football being released on PC in 1988 – along with the fact that players were moving over to console especially more with the release of the NES, Tecmo Super Bowl was the first ever sports game to have both the real NFL players along with their statistics at the same time due to an agreed license between both the NFL and the NFLPA. They had planned to have the same in the previous, just as successful, arcade version Tecmo Bowl but had run into difficulties getting a license with the NFL due to another arrangement the league had made with a different game titled NFL. Unlike some of its other American football video game predecessors that often played with under eleven players on each team, Tecmo Super Bowl played with a roster of 30 different players on each team and 11 players on each side of the ball – while also allowing six substitutes for the offensive side. In the original Tecmo Bowl arcade version it was allowed for four players to play at a time but changed to only allowing two players at a time when Tecmo released the NES console version of the game, and it stayed that way with Tecmo Super Bowl. Tecmo Super Bowl has almost all of the same gameplay as the original arcade game. On offense, you select one of four plays and, if playing two player, the opponent attempts to chose the best defensive play that will counter the offense’s hopefully ending up in either an interception or a sack on the quarterback. Tecmo did add a few new features though after Tecmo Bowl including but not limited to timeouts, fumbles, and stat tracking. Both Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl feature twelve teams but in the ladder, due to licensing agreements, they were able to use the full and real names and cities of the teams.

Both games have become famous for their extremely highly rated, unable to be tackled version of Bo Jackson, Tecmo Bo, the “best athlete in the history of video games,” and ironically the same year (1991) a hip injury ended his short yet illustrious career. The game, in a sense, became a corner stone to American sports video games, and of course to American football games. Several sequels have been released while there is still a relatively large fan base that continues to play Tecmo Super Bowl and hold tournaments to this day, with the game easily modded there have been different versions released. Tecmo made an earlier and potentially larger impact on sports games than some American companies, such as Midway, ever could.    

Works Cited:

Tecmo 1991, Tecmo Super Bowl, video game, NES.

Tecmo 1987, Tecmo Bowl, video game, console/NES.