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