Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017)

Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) is an online simulation game where the player assumes the role of an online fake-news creator. Though the storyline does not disclose the location of the protagonist, the viewership is targeted towards the United States because of higher ads and views pay-rates: “You might not care about American politics, but you can still use its drama to profit!” (Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017)) The goal is to create news sites and drive traffic to your articles, profiting from ad-clicks and views.

The game begins by choosing a protagonist to play. Then, you create a domain and build a website with a layout that gives the platform a foundational 30/100 credibility rating. You then copy articles from other news sites, as it is easier to plagiarize than to write your own, and post them on your site. For the beginning of the game, you are led through the fake-news world with goals to accomplish: getting at least 100 shares, earning $10 from an article, have a celebrity share it, create a second news-site, etc. If you do not manage your finances from the monthly domain fees and purchasing of new profiles, you can even go into debt/take out a loan from your social media profile person (mine was Darryl Bishop) and pay them back with interest at the end of the month. To get the ad-view sales rolling, you buy one or multiple social media profiles and use their connections/memberships on Facebook to plant your articles in promising Facebook groups. You get immediate feedback and reactions from the group whether it is the type of emotions triggered or the article’s popularity. As the game proceeds, you have the option of writing your own articles, based on pre-made stories. Titling it differently and adding various elements such as a fake-image, false sources, blaming a political party, etc. elevate the Believability and Drama scores. Ideally, you want articles that have as close to 20/20 scores. Higher scores, more shares, and more articles = higher credibility score. Typically if an article gets too viral, then a fact-checking site debunks the article, thus lowering the site’s credibility score. That just means another article has to go viral to gain more revenue. I have noticed once the player hits a $400 profits threshold, the credibility and shares take off; there is less labor involved and the money snowballs in. The article and site become self-sufficient, and the game-given goals end.

Even after all the goals were completed, I still kept playing because the addictive quality of gaining likes, shares, and revenue took over. Even though I knew it was not real life, these were not real people reading the article, nor is it real money rolling in; I got a certain adrenaline spike. The same spike that occurs when I see my actual social media accounts and posts get high engagements. It just goes to show just how artificial this feeling actually is, even when real interaction and game interaction are distinguishable. Yet to an extent, relationships with social media analytics mimic game processes.

Though Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) allude to the general fake-news industry and profitable analytics, the Macedonian teenagers 2016 US elections fake-news profiting incidents served as the main inspiration to the game. Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) website’s About page directed me to a legit BuzzFeed article covering the news: over 100 fake-news pro-Trump websites were being run from the Balkans, Macedonia by teenagers. By generating viral amounts of shares, comments, and likes on Facebook, these teens earn from $5,000 a month to $3,000 a day (Silverman). This is because “a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US” (Silverman). And as Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) stated in their game’s opening screens, “Fake news takes less time to create, and it often spreads better than real news, since you aren’t as constrained by facts”. Furthermore, these Macedonian teens “learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters” (Silverman). Now, fake-news occurrences are feared to swing the Macedonian elections.

Similarly, I was surprised how quickly my sites became politically biased. I did not even create my sites with the intention of catering to a certain viewership. It was just easier to stay consistent to a group and build upon a base of followers. When a plethora of similarly subjected articles were released, Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) had the notification that “hate crimes against the group you have targeted increased by 8%”. While the logistics of it make sense and I am aware of this effect in real life, this simulation game showed me how easy it is to disregard the consequences of fake news. Up until that point, only the priority of profits was planted in my mind.

Additionally, when the game had me create my own article titles, I caught myself being insensitive and less regarded to the actual story of the article. My titles were a concise version of the story, but blowing it out of proportion. Here, it is easy to play on words, use trigger words, and lean towards more gruesome descriptions as click bait.

These realizations were the exact purpose of the game. Though controversy had brought up that this game could teach others how to create fake news, Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) states: “The process of creating fake news is already well documented online. If someone wants to make a fake news site, they already have access to the information they need”. On their About page, Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017) provides links and suggestions on spotting fake news, becoming aware, and researching sources. They also provide this diagram explain the player’s flow in fulfilling the game’s purpose:

outcome_map

The game’s website goes on to explain that the purpose of the game is not to teach people how to make fake news, but rather to spark awareness of misinformation and a conscious acknowledgement of emotional manipulation for the sake of power and profit.

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About the Creators:

Creator of Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017), Amanda Warner has been an instructional designer and learning developer since 2003. As an Instructional Designer, she has worked for IBM and has led projects for Toyota Financial Services, PG&E, Yahoo!, HSBC, and the US Department of Health and Human Services under Allen Interactions. Warner’s freelance portfolio consists of online educational and humanitarianism advocacy games, presentations, and trainings: North Carolina’s Air Quality: Advocating for Patient Health, Abdominal Wall Anatomy and Hernia Basics, Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Aid, Client Protection and Financial Education in Microfinance (*dates not provided for these works)www.amanda-warner.com

Music creator of Fake It To Make It (Warner 2017), Robbie Dooley is self-titled “multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, songwriter, music teacher, and game developer”. Though Dooley develops entertainment games, he mostly contributes his talents and original music to games, videos, and podcasts. www.robbiedooley.com

 

 

Works Referenced

Dooley, Robbie Charles. “Robbie Dooley – Music for Games.” Robbie Dooley Music for Games. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2017. <http://www.robbiedooley.com/&gt;.

Silverman, Craig, and Lawrence Alexander. “How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.” BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed, 4 Nov. 2016. Web. 06 May 2017.

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

Warner, Amanda. Amanda Warner. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2017. <http://amanda-warner.com/&gt;.

Warner, Amanda, and Robbie Dooley. “About.” Fake It To Make It. Amanda Warner, 2017. Web. 06 May 2017.

Fake It to Make It: MDA Framework

When scrolling to the bottom of the page on many websites today, they are riddled with dramatic titles promising a new teeth whitening technique or weight loss program. This realm of online schemes for quick cash evolves into fabricated political stories to generate ad revenue. Fake news has saturated the content online and grows in visibility as people continue to vocalize extensively and informally through Facebook posts, rarely tracing sources. This phenomenon grew leading a wide circulation of these articles to be speculated to have influenced the US presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In an increasingly polarized political atmosphere, fake news furthers the divide with hyper sensationalism. As a US citizen, I had only interacted with it as a receiver and this game gives all players an opportunity to see the inner workings and motivations of fake news as a producer.

The creator of Fake It to Make It, Amanda Warner, had hoped the game would encourage a critically thinking public that was interested in properly assessing and discerning fake, exploitative news. Fake It to Make It dissects fake news into its core tactics and imitates its process for the player to situate their minds in that of running a fake news website. It is a simulation game with the goal to gain profit by creating viral fake news content. When contextualizing the game with the goal of personal achievements and purchases like band equipment or a new home, fake news becomes more complicated. It becomes exciting and justified in a way, fake news begins to have a purpose. The player gains awareness of the functions of fake news through the mechanics in the game. Game mechanics are the various actions afforded to the player which contribute to game dynamics, the behavior of the mechanics on the player, which create the aesthetics, the desirable emotions evoked in the player (Jaroslav, 2017). These mechanics teach the political exploitation, emotional exploitation and the techniques of gaining visibility in an era of high speed of news.

The goals of the game direct the player to first explore and toy with the public’s emotions: fear, anger and happiness. Often comments on a positive news article on Facebook will speak of the high concentration of negative news in the sphere and desperately wish for more encouraging news along similar lines to the article. One of the games mechanics teaches the player very simply why this phenomenon exists- exploiting happiness has very low yield. When publishing an article tagged neutral and planted in neutral groups for the sole purpose of creating happiness, very little profit is made. A large portion of the profits within the game are made when the player chooses drama tags that exploit the trending fears and angers in the specific time frame. The tutorial asks the player to experiment with invoking all three emotions, but the game mechanics encourage the player to rely on anger and fear because they are the most successful. After achieving the “happiness” goal, I never published a neutral article again. The game also provides updates on polls showing trends and allows the player to experience the agency of their in game choices based on exploiting emotions. Because I had published a popular article about immigration and crime, exploiting the fear of immigrants, the public polls showed that fear of crime was at an all-time high despite the statistic realities within the fictional country.

Not as explicitly guided, the player learns that exploiting emotions linked to political issues is incredibly beneficial in gaining profits. The player is told that an article with high scores of drama and believability are more profitable and are then given the option to write articles with neutral or political bases and supports. The player will eventually understand after fiddling with the mechanics, the combinations of bases and supports, that nonpolitical articles fail in these crucial categories and therefore, the public will not care and will then not share the article. The mechanics also encourage planting a politicized article (ex: tagged orange party) into an online group that shares the same political view (also tagged orange party) in order to maximize profits. The more an article has tags that match the tags of the online group, the more popular the article will be. This teaches players that the public will read news that reaffirms their beliefs and makes them more conscious of blindly accepting news that aligns with their politics. This technique has real implications outside the game as this results in stronger polarization and further segregation in an already divided political arena in the US. The use of both the purple and orange tags as a means to increase profits brings awareness that both political parties can be exploited. It is easy to accuse the opposing political party of being “sheeples,” but in reality, every party is vulnerable and lack critical assessments. The game also offers the option to create a new site to target the other political party (as the players learns earlier on that political congruity is important) but the public cannot detect if separate sites are owned by the same creator. This is possible because of the previous mechanism: a reader polarized will very rarely read an article bent towards the opposition and therefore the two audiences never intersect.

The game mechanics also teach players how fake site creators can navigate the high speed characteristic of news. This is introduced in the “trending” goal where the player must race to write an article with tags that will match the trending tags of the day. Trending topics so quickly switch gears which makes writing more difficult. The player has pressure enforced through the calendar and time restrictions the game imposes in contrast to the expenses deducted over time. Choosing a good base and support is difficult due to the high speed frequency of trending tags. In these instances, plagiarism (“copying article” option) is easy to resort to and in order to maximize drama, you must sacrifice truth and believability.

It is interesting to see this interactive medium be used as a tool to educate the public using the same manipulative tools that had exploited this audience. Warner addresses the possibility that this game may, in reality, diverge away from its intended purpose and actually teach players how to generate fake news websites and inspire players to gain profits from similar schemes. She includes a diagram to illustrate the ways in which she hopes the game will influence players to be critical thinkers by educating them through game mechanics to expose the appeals to emotions, confirmation bias, partial truths and misleading specifics. This reminds me of Barbara Kruger’s tactics to educate the public on the manipulative techniques advertising agencies use to exploit consumers by using these same techniques for her own purposes. She shifts the power dynamic by giving consumers tools to better analyze their environment. Warner’s immersive process through game mechanics successfully teaches players tactics to be watchful of through indirect means.

This game becomes more interesting as the public grows warier of the information they are reading since politicians transform this term into a double edged sword in our political climate. It is a weapon used to discredit the opposition on no basis. This game teaches readers to be attentive to tactics fake news producers use to create viral political news but fails to address the new ways politicians themselves use the term to continue exploiting the public, but this time through very fear of “fake news.” This game can also make political parties, through the critical use of tags as a exploitative means, seem trivial and counteractive in ways that may disengage the player from participating in politics, which is also unproductive.

Prior to playing, I had not realized the extent of the politicization of fake news especially through the highly calculated means used to garner views. Playing through Fake It to Make It highlighted the financial benefits gained by successfully targeting both ends of the political spectrum and has made me conscious of the economic factor I had never considered before. I had falsely assumed that fake news articles were written by citizens just as passionate as they were deceitful in the political atmosphere rather than detached young people looking to make a quick buck. It is unsettling to see how easily profiles could be categorized and targeted by the orange and purple tags and their subset of topics. People often believe that the views they are voicing are important, valuable or even unique but to see these subjects so easily classified exposes how little individual critical thinking we really employ. Seeing these tags exposes the greater powers influencing our core beliefs and how they are exploited for both profit in fake news and the political sphere.

 

Works Cited

Svelch, Jaroslav. “Games, immersion and ethics: Understanding avatars and player       agency.” New York University Prague. 15 March, 2017. Lecture.

Amanda Warner 2017. Fake It to Make It, video game. Free to play.

 

Fake It To Make It

Fake It To Make It is a game designed and developed by Amanda Warner with the intention of educating people about fake news. In Fake It To Make It the player sets a goal of earning money for a car or an instrument by creating a fake news outlet. The game walks you through the process of developing a news outlet and maintaining and increasing credibility, including how to copy and write articles with clickbait headlines that will appeal to various groups and how to make a piece go viral by matching it with a trending topic and exploiting certain events. You have a guide that gives you tips such as “Lots of people are scared of ‘certain people’! Go to Copy Articles. Find an article with the topic ‘Certain People Are Dangerous’ and copy it on your site. Then, share the article to a politically-aligned group” (Warner). Through the game, players learn how to manipulate emotion through rhetoric and how people are readily available to believe and react to something that matches their views.

The game is formatted from the business side of fake news, which is something most people do not experience or even think about despite our daily interactions with fake news outlets. The format is effective in achieving its goal of educating people on fake news outlets because of how simple it is. Even though the process is more complicated and time consuming in real life, all the information on the game is out there on the Internet for someone to use. The game indicates how this can be an easy way to make money, especially with the manipulation of people’s emotions through politically charged articles. The game goes through a series of minigoals, inviting you to post an article that will result in happiness or disgust. The player can see the payoff from posting articles that play on these emotions in groups that will strongly resonate with them, as articles that trigger strong emotions will result in a bigger pay off. The structure of the game is beneficial to its purpose. It is a very easy to understand, as there is someone walking you through each step and the game itself is logically formatted. Thus, this increases the game’s reach as it can be played by a lot of people, which allows it to educate more people. Furthermore, the minigoals keep the player engaged and willing to play on, as well as the larger goal marking a clear win.

As the editor of a fake news outlet, you can choose topics of news that would appeal to either the Orange or the Purple parties. From then on, you can choose to add drama, such as “Insult the mainstream media”, and believability, such as “include fake specific details”. You can take this to another level by adding Orange Party Drama or Purple Party Drama, which contain mostly the same tags, “Portray certain people as victims” and “Appeal to patriotism”. When you post an article to a politically oriented group, people from both parties will lament “How stupid do they think we are?” and “How can people act like this?” By using fictional political parties with no clear ideologies, it makes this game that involves politics nonpartisan. It also shows how people clearly aligned with a certain party are quick to believe news that is marketed towards them, as it matches what they think of the world, their country, and the opposite party. It was interesting to imagine how just as I see fake news articles shared amongst my circle that reflect my political beliefs, the same happens with the opposite party. America’s political climate is already very heightened, and the addition of fake news and people thinking they have the facts due to this spread of fake news is making the environment more polarizing. There is a tendency to believe that those of an opposite party are vastly different from you, but this game indicates that there are various things that people from both parties fear and get angry about, and how fake news outlets know how to manipulate these emotions. Fake It To Make It does not ignore the consequences of spreading fake news, as you receive notifications of events that happen as a result of your articles. For example, I was prompted to post an article about a Somali immigrant assaulting a waitress with a believability score of 11/20 and a drama score of 19/20. It was my most popular article and earned $256.53 with 20,719 shares. However, a couple “weeks” later I received a notification that public opinion towards Somali people have dropped 8%. The game is a prime example of Calleja’s Player Involvement Model, from In Game: From Immersion to Incorporation. Players interact with the game from the macro level, as the lessons learned from Fake It To Make It carry out into the real world and affect how the player will from now on interact with information they see online. Players are also affected in the pre-game experience as the game is most effective with prior knowledge of how people, and perhaps the player themself, interact with news on social media. The player experiences mico-involvement in the game as the game requires great attention and interactivity. The micro experience is enhanced by the procedural rhetoric Fake It To Make It practices. According to Bogost in Persuasive Games, “Procedural rhetorics afford a new and promising way to make claims about how things work” (Bogost). The game forces you to assume the role as the creator and editor of a fake news outlet, and though you are removed from the game, you see the consequences of your actions with the appearance of the “real time” notifications. These notifications can come as a surprise, because when you are focusing on your website and maximizing your income, you do not realize the real-world implications. Thus the game details how harmful fake news actually is and the impact it can make on society. It is also interesting because until the appearance of these notifications, the player is just interacting with the Dashboard for their website website, seeing everything in terms of numbers. At that point, the current lessons the player takes away is how shockingly easy it is to profit from the manipulation of news. The notifications add an additional lesson as they bring the player back to the real world. Furthermore, Bogost claims that “vivid information…seems to be more persuasive than non-vivid information” (Bogost). More vivid games are more interactive, which allows for the message of the game to be more effectively transmitted to its users.

Overall, the game is effective in transmitting its goal of educating its players about fact checking and fake news. The game evidences that fake news is very easy to create, and the business is more profitable as the news gets more dramatic but keeping in mind believability. Through interacting with the game, the player learns that it is not difficult to manipulate emotions and appealing to a politically affiliated group with articles that make sense in their view of the world creates a lot of views and shares, and in turn a larger profit.

Choice: Texas

First, the game instructs you to choose one out of five female characters. Two of the characters look caucasian and then one is black, and the other two are what I would consider miscellaneous (but could also be caucasian). The game directly says at the beginning that it’s an interactive fiction game and it’s meant to address “reproductive healthcare access in the state of Texas.” This makes me immediately think that the game is going to show how difficult it is for women to get reproductive healthcare because Texas is extremely conservative and it is known for making it rather difficult for women to have access to reproductive healthcare. I think the fact that it says that the game works as you “attempt to navigate” the state’s healthcare system is very telling of Texas’s nature because that makes it seem like it’s going to be really difficult since you are only “attempting” to navigate rather than successfully navigating. I also like that it clearly says that it’s based on “extensive research” and all kinds of demographics and analytical data that is an honest representation of the problem regarding access to reproductive healthcare in the state of Texas. This makes the game far more credible than just spewing out random, unwarranted and inaccurate statistics.

I chose to start as Latrice because she was first. Knowing that the game based its choices and scenarios off of extensive research, I felt immediately that their choice to include a black woman as well as other white woman was to show that access would be different depending on the color of the woman’s skin. Therefore, I inherently expected it to be more difficult for Latrice to get access to healthcare as opposed to Leah.

The scenario we are met with is one where Latrice is asked if she is pregnant. Despite that she takes birth control, she has been very stressed lately and had missed a few doses. She then explores the idea of her being pregnant. We get a little insight into Latrice’s life regarding her mother, her niece and nephew, her sister, and her boyfriend, Roy. Latrice ends up being pregnant. Then Latrice tells Roy she’s pregnant and he asks what she what she wants to do. We are then given the choice to either tell Roy that she wants to keep the baby, not keep the baby, or be unsure. Based on her being financially able and that she didn’t necessarily seem completely opposed to having the child, I decided to say that she thinks she wants the baby. We are given another choice again even though she backs up why she thinks having a child could be a good idea and Roy questions her because he thought she “didn’t want” kids. I chose to say that Latrice is sure. Roy is very understanding, which is nice. She has a family dinner and then announces her pregnancy to her family and they ask her about her and Roy getting married. We are then given the choice for Latrice to say whether she thinks or doesn’t think that they should get married. I chose yes because truthfully, society has clearly drilled into my mind that it’s easiest and makes the most sense to raise a child with someone you’re married to. She ends up getting really stressed throughout the whole experience of being pregnant, making her wonder if having a kid is the right decision.

Because I wanted to see what would happen if she decided to have an abortion, I chose to have an abortion at this point. She is then given an important meeting that makes her unable to attend the appointment at the clinic and she can’t reschedule the appointment. I decided to keep the appointment and to miss the meeting. Then, at the appointment, Latrice is given the choice to get a medical abortion or a surgical abortion. She is told her absence was noticed in the meeting and her client wasn’t happy. She ends up snapping at the client who is upset that she didn’t attend and her boss hears it. I again chose to have the abortion because I wanted to know how it would play out. She takes the pills and endures some hefty nausea. Her sister comes over and judges her for getting an abortion because it’s against her personal values. Her mother ends up being admitted to the hospital and at the hospital, everyone makes up. Overall, Latrice’s experience really wasn’t horrible. I was expecting her to have some sort of horribly inefficient or poor experience with the doctors at her clinic because she’s a woman of color, but this was not the case. I feel like I just learned a lot about her and her life.

I then chose to play as Leah, who became pregnant from being raped by her colleague. When given the choice to talk to her parents, pastor, or sister, I chose to talk to her sister, Sam, because she seemed reliable. Also, I too would go to my sibling if I needed help. Sam is helpful and ends up making the appointment for her. I decide to quit because I could not imagine working with someone who did that to her. She then goes to Austin to her sister to get the abortion and Sam is extremely supportive, which is so heartwarming. I again confirm my decision to have the abortion. Though some complications arise, Leah has a good sister that is so willing to help her that she offers for Leah to stay with her in Austin and get a job there. This made me happy that she had family that was so supportive in this horrible scenario.

I then played as Leah again and this time decided I’d choose to keep the baby. Leah tells her mom she’s going to keep the baby. Her mom is somewhat upset, but still sort of supports her. Her dad however is less supportive. Hearing her dad question whether she was truly raped was offensive and saddening. I already like the abortion scenario better because her sister was so understanding and was not even remotely upset with her, unlike her clearly disappointed parents are. I then decided to give the baby up for adoption, just to explore that option. I chose to have a closed adoption so she wouldn’t be reminded of her incident with Larry and she can move on. It’s nice that the adoptive parents are willing to pay for her care. I end up confirming my choice to give up the baby.

I found this game to be genuinely interesting, however it was different than what I had expected. This game shined a more positive light on the Texas reproductive healthcare system than I had anticipated upon beginning the game. I expected the characters to have to endure extreme difficulty to successfully get an abortion. However, the clinics proved to not only be effective, but also quite easy to navigate. This actually made me feel more hopeful about Texas and the current state of their reproductive healthcare system. I’m glad to see that there are efficient and helpful clinics in place to help women who are in this situation.

Parable of the Polygons: A Game of Bias

The Parable of Polygons, created by Vi Hart and Nicky Case, is a “playable post” version of Thomas Schelling’s model of neighborhood segregation that suggests small neighbor preferences can make up larger, divisive issues. Segregation is often overlooked as an issue of the past, but this game brings up a subtler, less intentional version of segregation that is largely unknown in more recent times.

By immediately grouping the characters in the game into squares and triangles, and then declaring that the shapes are “100% slightly shapist”, the game starts getting its point across early. The object of the game is to move the “unhappy” shapes to a different, empty space in order to make them “happy”. The twist, however, is in the reasoning behind what makes the shape happy or unhappy. Each shape has the same, shared preference that “[They] wanna move if less than one-third of [their] neighbors are like [them]”, and if this preference is not fulfilled at the moment, the individual shape affected will be unhappy until the preference is fulfilled.

Then, the interactive part of the game makes you arrange the shapes to completely accommodate their one preference, and by the time the task is completed, the division of shapes is fairly evident. You perform the same task again, but with a larger number of the two shapes, and the result is even more telling than the previous task. What was most surprising was that lowering the preference from thirty-three percent to ten percent didn’t effect any change at all either. There was no real change until the game introduced a new preference: the shape would demand to move “if more than eighty percent of their neighbors are the same”, to go along with the “less than ten percent” preference already in place. When the shapes are arranged according to this new set of boundaries, the world is much more intertwined. The point that the game is attempting to make here is that the only real way to solve this discreet segregation issue to take action, to demand diversity. According to the game, simply lowering the preference, or bias, didn’t change a thing. It was only when each shape began demanding they not solely live around the same shape all the time that any real difference occurred.

This game is clearly a metaphor for the current segregated socioeconomic situation happening in America. Many public schools have almost exclusively one ethnicity in their demographics, which is a direct result of neighborhoods at large having the exact same problem. This creates an even larger gap between different ethnicities and cultures, which only further escalates the problem of segregation. I feel like this game could seriously educate the country as to what the problem is, because simple lack of awareness is the biggest fuel to the fire at this point.

The game has three main points that it blatantly tries to get across at the end during a “WRAPPING UP” section:

  1. “Small individual bias à large collective bias: When someone says a culture is a shapist, they’re not saying the individuals in it are shapist. They’re not attacking you personally.”
  2. “The past haunts the present: 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.”
  3. “Demand diversity near you: If small biases created the mess we’re in, small anti-biases might fix it. Look around you. Your friends, your colleagues, that conference you’re attending. If you’re all triangles, you’re missing out on some amazing squares in your life – that’s unfair to everyone. Reach out, beyond your immediate neighbors.”

The first point is representative of the moment in the game where you lower the preference to ten percent, but nothing changes. Most people do not consider themselves racist, but that’s not what makes up larger segregation. The small, sometimes subconscious, biases that we carry are what keep communities divided. A lot of little decisions can lead to a big change.

The second and third points tie in with each other very well because at the end of the day, they both boil down to one ideal: the only way to make any real change is to take action. “In a world where bias ever existed, being unbiased is not enough! We’re gonna need active measures.”

The way the gameplay, and the game as a whole, come off is similar to that of a children’s’ educational video. The controls are very simple and the overall objective is extremely straightforward and basic. Even throughout playing, the game often explains the uncomplicated metaphors in a way that’s like an elementary school teacher attempting to implement basic mathematics into a student’s brain. The game is very short and does not waste any time. It gets to the point without being too direct. Overall, the game is fairly close to being just a blog post, but a few interactive parts qualify it as a game. I think the decision to make it a game rather than a blog post plays into the reasoning behind the Confucius quote: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”. The combination of interaction and education in this game was spot on.

The game, however, did have on major flaw in my opinion: the solution at the end was a little bit oversimplified. The idea that society could just call to action and demand diversity all at once and the issue would be solved is a little bit unrealistic. But I suppose you have to commend them for going with an overly optimistic solution rather than a depressing ending. The game as a whole succeeded greatly in educating its audience, however old, about a very real, below-the-surface problem that is happening today. As far as video games go, I would have to say it’s fairly subpar. As far as interactive, awareness-raising, blog posts go, I would have to say it’s fairly effective.

 

Works Cited

Bliss, Laura. “An Immersive Game Shows How Easily Segregation Arises-and How      We Might Fix It.” CityLab. N.p., 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.

Parable of the Polygons. Nicky Case and Vi Hart. 2014. Video game.

The Parable of Polygons: A Learning Experience

By Raymundo Virula

The Parable of Polygons by Vihart and Nicky Case is a web browser based game that uses simplicity to highlight a baffling issue in modern society. The issue at hand is that of segregation, although many believe segregation to be a thing of the past The Parable of Polygons reminds us that it is still an issue. The problem the game is addressing is oftentimes forgotten about because it isn’t intentional so much because of the remanence of segregation.

Although there are no laws that require citizens of the United States to be segregated socioeconomic situations as well as tradition keep races from intermingling and desegregating. Many neighborhoods that were once lower on the economic totem pole are growing into economic forces but because the residents don’t move their demographics remain of the same. Generations of minorities have lived in these previously impoverished neighborhoods and have been able to better them by investing in their growth and prosperity. The issue with all this is that families have been stagnant for the past few years and haven’t moved around like they used to so intermingling has decreased to the point where schools might as well be segregated with certain public schools having as much as 90% of a particular race. This segregation is the root of many modern-day issues involving race and inequality. The lack of interaction between races and cultures makes it so that barriers are formed between races and miscommunications become abundant. Most Americans don’t view themselves as racist but their inherent lack of interaction with other races makes them ignorant of other cultures besides their own. The same goes for the African American and Latin cultures. They have formed niches within neighborhoods throughout America but as a result have separated themselves and formed an initial line of divide.

The Game The Parable of Polygons uses simplicity and closely tied analogies to tell about this issue as well as provide a simple but effective solution. The game itself is the product of two Youtubers who run channels on math and comics respectively. The Purpose of the game is to sort of instill a call to action in the player as well as simply inform him that the issue is present. The Gameplay of The Parable of Polygons is unlike a traditional game in that it feels more like an interactive lesson (probably a result of the creators’ personal style), it has two colorful characters and a variety of charts. The controls are simple and explained before every level / chart. The analogy of the shapes being races fits the message perfectly. Every decision in the game relates to the message and as a result everything that the game is trying to teach you comes through clearly. For this reason, I believe that it fails as a procedural game. Procedural games are supposed to make the player find meaning in his own actions in the game but The Parable of Polygons makes it so that the text before every game is what you’re supposed to be learning about. I do believe that the game is still able to teach just not in a procedural way and more like how some lessons in school have games attached to them to help the concept stick.

The way that the game teaches the player is through a very ingenious analogy where there are two races, squares and triangles and although they are not racist they prefer some of their race to be around them. Because of this bias they will move if the ratio between races becomes more than 2 to 1. After these rules of the reality are explained the game begins. The player starts by arranging a cluster of mixed shapes so that no shapes are unhappy with the living situation. This part allows for a lot of repeatability and with enough curiosity a player could spend a long time trying to come up with a combination that was not very segregated. But, Most likely that isn’t the case, the player realizes that even with a small 1/3 bias the shapes become very segregated. The game shows that these shapes want diversity and if they have non-they feel uninterested. This third dimension allows for shapes to be placed together even if they are the same race the penalty being an uninterested citizen. After this “sandbox” type mode they player is presented charts of the game he just played and these charts highlight what little changes to the behaviors and preferences of the shapes can cause in the final layout of the neighborhood. The first chart highlights that even if a group starts diverse a small bias can lead to a chain of people moving further and further into segregation as groups decrease in diversity minorities move out of the groups leading to a positive feedback loop. The next graph shows that decreasing biases doesn’t do anything in an already segregated world as there is no motivation to move or act. This is why this game is important, it shows that without knowledge of the situation there is no motivation to act. The game offers a solution though, although its simplistic nature makes it hard to believe, it is in line with the simplistic game. The answer to the problem according to the game is for people to seek diversity. If people were to want to live in a place where they were the minority then the world would be much more diverse.

The answer seems too simplistic though, and thus the game’s solution becomes less believable. The initial issue that the game sought out to address was tackled and simply doing so makes this game successful. I was unaware that the issue that it presented was even that drastic, I also didn’t know what caused it but now I feel like I do. The game taught in the same way that a teacher would, using graphics, analogies, and kinesthetic to drill in the idea. For that reason, it is hard to call this a game, to me it is more like an interactive infographic. There is no real way to win and the real point of the game it to experiment only to find that there is only one real solution (the solution that the creators want you to follow). Overall it is a good message just not a great game due to of its lack of actual gameplay and freedom to play. It is an important message that is needed in today’s world though because it highlights how cancerous prejudice can be and how we still have a ways to go before we are a truly united and integrated society.

 

Works Cited

 

Hart, Vi. “Parable of the Polygons.” Blog post. Vi Hart. WordPress, 8 Dec. 2014. Web.

Parable of the Polygons. Nicky Case and Vi Hart. 2014. Video game.

 

Nova Alea Game Review

When I heard just the first two sentences narrated in Nova Alea, I immediately though of New York. “For its dwellers, Nova Alea was a mixture of shelters, connections, memories, longings. For its masters, the city was a matrix of financial abstractions.” The game itself begins when the player – taking the role of a master – is instructed to start accumulating property by clicking on the geometric buildings in the city plan. The player is instructed to try and predict which properties would be worth the most and then to sell before they were no longer valuable. Players are able to analyze this by the physical growth of the buildings in the model. The player’s funds are represented by a pink cube that hovers above the city and tracks the mouse. As you accumulate more capital, the cube grows larger and larger hanging over the city. New challenges arise, however, that bar the player from simply buying everything too quickly and winning the game. This is where it gets interesting. The value of the property around the city rises and falls according to where the “weird folk” attract the “animal spirits of the market.” If we understand “the masters” as representing the elite upper class, these weird folk must conversely be the artists and philosophers within the community. They are represented by a green, constantly changing shape that disrupts the order of the city plan. As a master you have the option to support the folk, or to try and quash them through the purchasing of every building in Nova Alea. Depending on which path you choose, the game ends either with a city against its people or a system supported by the upper crust.

Culturally, the game resonated with me as a New Yorker. Though I’ve only properly lived in the Big Apple for three years, I’ve lived twenty minutes away for my whole life. Playing Nova Alea called attention to the current issue of gentrification. The gameplay was particularly powerful in that the abstraction of the human element that takes place during these large-scale transactions. It was represented literally by an abstract city model, the geometric shape reminiscent of real structures in the city. The title of “weird folk” was particularly appropriate to represent the artist/activist community that exists in real life in communities like Brooklyn and the East Village. In the game, these activists begin to block the masters from buying and selling to quickly, forcing the player to make choices more wisely. Blocks were placed up to two turns at a certain point, which means money spent on a building would be lost if that building wasn’t sold before those turns were up. Additionally, the concept of rent control was introduced to try and stop the process of buying and selling from displacing more people. Depending on how you play, the game will generate different patterns of events. For example, if you chose to support the arts and support rent controlled properties, the game will end with a message of hope tinged with unrest. Conversely, if you buy and sell as many valuable properties as possible, the game conveys a message of contention between the city and its inhabitants. In this way, Nova Alea used procedural rhetoric and served as a microcosm to simulate a real life economy and its effects on the individual.

The criticisms I have with the game mostly regard gameplay. The patterns were initially difficult to recognize and the controls were a bit inconvenient. If you ran out of money too quickly, you were sent immediately back to the start screen, with only a vague message of how to proceed. Viewing the entire model was also quite clunky. It was a click-and-drag mechanic that was not always conducive to viewing the game. Though I suppose it can be argued that this furthered the point that people in power do not always see the big picture, just potential money to be made. The actual message of the game was also clearly biased. While I agree completely with the sensibilities of the developers, it felt too didactic. Labelling the elite as “masters” and the artists as “weird folk” played on stereotypes that excluded the possibility for collaboration between the two groups. Stylistically, the game was strong. The graphics were smooth, and the audio was sharp. It gave the viewer a clear idea of setting and tone. Utilizing a familiar archetype of a female voice that resembled that of artificial intelligence was a smart choice in that it placed the time period into the future. The simple setting of a virtual game board additionally added a robotized perspective on the concept of city planning. Overall, it was a fun, challenging game that made important statements about the economy and its residents.

Nova Alea marks an important genre in gaming. It not only criticizes a system, but it also gives solutions to fixing it. It’s no secret that the housing market crash of 2008 in the United States along with the gentrification of New York City and other major urban centers across the U.S. have contributed to a discord between the people living in these areas. Once vibrant, artistically nurturing areas have become nothing more than chain restaurants and artisan coffee shops. The game sends an important message about life and capitalism’s role in how it has changed.

Philip Garip