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DECEPTION

An in-person multiplayer game to promote critical thinking and dialogue to combat the spread of misinformation.

Course: Social Web

MY ROLE:

Research: semi-structured interviews, competitive analysis, cognitive theory

Design: game design,  prototypes, play-test

TIMELINE:

12 Weeks
Spring 2023

TOOLS:

Figma

TEAM:

3 Master's HCI Students

CONTEXT

What is the project goal?

What is the solution?

Game Poster

Figure: Game Poster

Address the pervasive spread of misinformation and fake news across various subjects in the world.

An innovative in-person technology-driven game for people between the age of 18-30 years.

The game helps in - 

  • Fostering a critical mindset among players

  • Encouraging healthy skepticism

  • Reducing the rate of accepting information at face value

Figure: Game Teaser

RESEARCH

A unified vision to combat fake news on social media

Fake news manipulates politics and advertising and divides society. Social media fuels its spread. Our team aimed to combat misinformation by educating users about tactics and countering harmful design patterns that exploit emotions and polarization.

Our assumption about older adults as the primary target was shattered by thorough research. After engaging with diverse age groups, consulting experts, and combining research report data, we decided to focus on young adults.

Older adults share more news, but they may be less likely to believe it. In fact, younger people are more likely to believe COVID-19 misinformation than older people.

- A study by the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge and the State of the Nation Report by the COVID-19 Consortium

Social natives (18–24s) – who largely grew up in the world of the social, participatory web – differ meaningfully from digital natives (25–34s) – who largely grew up in the information age but before the rise of social networks – are the largest consumers of digital news.

- Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford

Figure: Reports revealing young adults, especially aged 18 to 30, are highly prone to believing fake news

9

Reports

5

Articles

10

Journals

6

Games

Background Research

7

30-minute User Interviews

(Age 18-30)

2

45 minutes Journalism Expert Interviews

Figure: Extensive research initiative to grasp the misinformation threat

SYNTHESIS

Synthesizing diverse data to unravel the complexity of misinformation spread

After analyzing current techniques, we found that algorithms and fact-checkers alone face challenges due to evolving truth criteria. Crowdsourcing, while novel, has biases and needs algorithmic support. However, using games as a strategy showed promise.

Games tackling the spread of misinformation currently lack engaging gameplay beyond simple clicks to identify fake media posts, articles, or pictures.

Affinity Clustering

Figure: Affinity clustering of user interviews

Bad News Game - a fake news intervention aimed at building psychological resistance against online misinformation

Figure: Bad News Game - a fake news intervention aimed at building psychological resistance against online misinformation.

​Insights from clustering:

  • Tendency to ignore interventions due to overconfidence

  • Feeling foolish when confronted.

  • Feeling hopeless to engage in discussions or correct others.

Thus, our group took on the challenge of creating an engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking game. Our mission was to empower players with critical thinking and skepticism, enabling them to steer clear of hasty beliefs and misinformation spread.

Defining the scope of the problem

Figure: Defining the scope of the problem

IDEATION

Parallel Prototyping: Advancing with Two Game Concepts

Game Concept One: World Domination

Figure: Game Concept One: World Domination

Testing the concepts with 4 college students

Figure: Testing the concepts with 4 college students

Testing our refined concept with 5 college students

Figure: Testing our refined concept with 5 college students

To proceed, we created two initial games. The first game adopted a fantasy world approach and was my contribution. It challenged players to identify genuine information through collaborative discussions while facing a deceptive dictator.

Game Concept Two: Trivia-Based

Figure: Game Concept Two: Trivia-Based

The second game adopted a trivia-style format, with players answering questions and providing written arguments for their choices. All answers and arguments are displayed, prompting reconsideration without direct discussion.

Based on the first round of testing, we combined elements to create a refined concept. The game adopted the theme of world domination with trivia-based individual rounds.

Testing the refined concept with another set of 5 college students revealed:

  • The rules were confusing and lacked clarity.

  • Low fidelity game map and lack of markers made players feel disconnected from the theme.

  • Crafting well-balanced questions is essential to avoid extremes of difficulty or obviousness.

Based on paper prototype testing, we developed mock phone screens to simulate the game. The screens featured simplified rules, a clear map, and different roles, and diverse question types like images or tweets to boost appeal and engagement.

PROTOTYPING

Creating screen-based prototype for feedback

During testing, participants found the map's purpose unclear, leading to a suggestion to pivot the game mechanic. Additionally, to improve clarity, we renamed the roles of the dictator and detective as deceiver and detective, respectively.

Low-fi prototypes tested with a different set of college students

Figure: Low-fi prototypes tested with a different set of college students

We also received feedback on UI improvements, like enhancing image visibility and providing clearer information about the number of dictators and detectives to avoid player confusion. 

 Iteration of the low-fi prototypes

Figure: Iteration of the low-fi prototypes

After brainstorming, we decided to rotate player roles each round and add a "Detective" role who will know the correct answer. These changes were well-received in the final playtest with a new set of participants.

High-fidelity prototypes

Figure: We proceeded to high-fidelity prototype after successful gameplay

IMPACT

Presenting our idea in the design showcase

We received positive feedback from visitors expressing excitement about the game's unique take. Some suggested pitching the game to established organizations like Microsoft Learn, Jackbox Games, or CMU's CyLab.

Participant's laughter and excitement served as a testament to the game's ability to entertain while educating about misinformation.

Team Photo

Figure: Team Photo

Thanks for stopping by!

Feel free to reach out and stay connected with me. I'm always down for a coffee and a chat!

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