From June 28 – 30, 2018, Games for Change has celebrated the 15th annual G4C Festival in New York City.
In the Games for Learning Summit conference track, Lindsay Grace, the Director of American University Game Lab, provided an inside look at how the creation of Factitious leveraged the talents of game designers and journalists.
Developed at JoLT, a collaboration between AU Game Lab and School of Communication tasked with exploring the intersection of journalism and game design, Factitious is an engaging news game that challenges players to detect fake stories from a set of real and fake online articles.
The database-supported smartphone app was released in early July 2017 and quickly racked up impressive traffic with more than 540,000 players judging more than 5 million articles in the first 3 weeks!
In Factitious, players read abbreviated news stories and have to swipe right if they think they are real or swipe left if they think they are fake. Once players make their choice, the game tells them if they were right or wrong. Players also have the option to see the source of the story, which can be a big hint.
The idea was to create a game that could explore the “fake news” phenomenon while also helping to educate about media literacy.
The developers hope to create a Classroom Edition of the game which would have longer rounds and include categories.
At a time when the reading public daily grapples with the question of fake news, the American University Game Lab/JOLT has created an accessible, easy-to-play game that helps players sort fake news from real.
The brainchild of former AU JOLT Fellow Maggie Farley and designed by AU game professor Bob Hone, Factitious is a quick game that can be played on any platform.
The Factitious team also included AU Game Lab director Lindsay Grace, who oversaw the project, and AU Game Design MA alumni and former JoLT fellows Cherisse Datu and Kelli Dunlap on the design team, and Joyce Rice on art and illustrations. Chas Brown was the game developer.
"Factitious is a playful way of exploring the fake news conundrum," Grace said. "This game is a good way to remind players about what they know and don't know about news."
For purposes of the game, "fake news" is defined as stories fabricated for fun, influence or profit, as well as satire, opinion and spin.
"Fake news is impossible to stop, so we wanted to playfully teach people how to recognize it," said Farley. "But the game is fun to play in itself."
Developed under a Knight Foundation grant, the game engine in the next phase should also be available to newsrooms, schools, or groups that want to adapt a version for their own use. Grace said the game "also demonstrates playful ways for newsrooms to gather data about how players perceive their content."