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Al Gore's 'Reality Drop' offers achievements for getting in climate change comment wars

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Gamification entered the cultural lexicon several years ago, as activists, businesses, and educators learned that people responded to concrete tasks and positive reinforcement. Sometimes, though, it's easy to see the threads of what came before. Al Gore's Reality Drop is touted as a new social game, but it's more of an achievement system for one of the oldest political games around: earn ranks by sharing talking points.

Reality Drop is meant to counter climate change denial by crawling the web for articles and sorting them into "red" and "green" sections by user voting. Green posts contain accurate information based on Gore's models. Red posts, on the other hand, contain myths, apparently identified automatically and then corroborated by the user base. When you click either set, you'll get points for leaving a comment (whether canned or personalized) refuting whatever myth is most likely to crop up in the comments or the post itself.

An achievement system for one of the oldest political games around

One of the top articles currently relates to the argument that "Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming," to which you're prompted to respond "Climate change 'loads the dice' and makes extreme weather more likely to happen" with an appended link. You'll also get points for getting clickthroughs from your comment, recruiting more users, or voting on posts, with the eventual goal of leveling up to ranks like "Carbon Crusher." At its best, the tool lets you find some reasonable information about climate change collected in one place.

Unfortunately, it's simple in theory, but a bit confusing in practice, especially since some of the articles don't actually seem to have space for comments. The weirder part is how closely it echoes the political astroturfing that's gone on for years in comments sections, with users pasting boilerprint denunciations of a particular platform on any vaguely related article. Unlike the more controversial examples — which use fake "sockpuppet" accounts — Gore is looking for real people. But even if you laud his goals, adding sound bites is dubiously useful. In fact, fighting internet comments with internet comments is probably not the answer to any problem we can imagine.