Your initial goals in Fake It To Make It are hardly nefarious; you’re saving to either buy music equipment for your band, put down a deposit on your first apartment, or buy a used car. It’s an echo of real-life fake news creators — like the operation run out of Long Beach by two men who were previously unemployed. Creator Amanda Warner cites the story of the infamous Macedonian teens spreading fabricated stories about Donald Trump as inspiration.
By helping players understand the business of fake news, Warner hopes they’ll be more skeptical of what they read. “I think that better understanding how and why we are manipulated by others, for profit or power, is worthwhile knowledge to have.”
Once you’ve decided on your financial goal, your time is spent either copying articles from other sites, or writing your own fake news to peddle through different social media accounts. There’s a delicate balance between first crafting (or copying) an article that is believable and creates the right amount of drama, and using the right channels to spread it. If you have a political post, for example, you wouldn’t drop it into one of the meme or parenting-focused groups. As articles spread and grab attention, they’ll start to pull in money.
The game could be read as instructional for creating fake news, rather than informational, but that’s a risk Warner says she’s willing to take. “I think the potential for positive change in players is worth it,” says Warner, who designs games and curriculums around social-impact.
Creating fake news is a compelling process in Fake It To Make It, but not a feel-good one. As you pull in more revenue, you can expand your fake news rag into an entire empire of sites, including some that earn money by collecting personal information or installing malware. What begins as an excuse to make some fictional money turns into, fittingly, a game. The urge to get more views and money is addictive. As you play, you sense fake news creators don’t just work for the cash, but in a peculiar way, they might enjoy the challenge, too.