Fake news and climate denial being challenged by Cranky Uncle game

Cranky Uncle is a new game that is promising to combat the influence of fake news and climate change deniers. The game is a learning platform for people to learn how to identify misinformation in the real-world and online. The game is expected to be released in June 2020, where it will be made available as a mobile app.

A new game called Cranky Uncle is promising to deal with the spread of fake news and climate change deniers through helping people identify misinformation being spread. It has been described as the “vaccination” for fake news and climate denialism by its creators because it will prevent the spread of misinformation.

Inoculation theory detects fake news and climate change deniers

The game is helping users to be able to identify tactics used by people spreading misinformation such as fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, and cherry-picking data. The game is also promising to help users be able to spot inaccuracies in the real world and online information.

The founder of the game, John Cook, a research assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, said the game used inoculation theory. The theory states that people can be protected against influence through exposure to weakened forms of threats.

Cook continued by saying,

This game has the potential to inoculate a generation against misinformation. But it’s such a big problem, how do we meet the size of the challenge? Technology and gamification is a really powerful tool in being able to do that.

Game trialed in community colleges and universities

The game involves using a series of cartoons explaining how different tactics of misinformation are used. This is then followed by questions to try and asses if the user will be able to identify misinformation. An example of such game scenarios involves cranky uncle shivering in cold and declaring that climate change is not real, then the next scene he is seen proclaiming that the sun is not real. These pictorial transitions are able to provide an engaging game in which users are able to enjoy while playing.

The game is in trial and has already been trialed in community colleges and universities. The app is expected to be released in June 2020. John Cook and his group Autonomy Coop are looking to raise $15,000 through crowdfunding to turn this project into a usable phone app.

Cook attributes the inspiration for the game to social psychologist Sander van der Linden who helped create the Bad News game to teach people how to identify fake news. He realized from Sander that the tools of gamification were very applicable to the logical fallacy framework that he was working with.

George Mason University is a public research university in Fairfax, Virginia. It was officially established in 1956 as a Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia and later became an independent institution in 1972.


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