New smartphone game aims to fight fake news about climate change

A new smartphone game is being developed to help users to defend themselves from misinformation about climate change.

John Cook, a professor at George Mason University in the state of Virginia and an expert on misinformation, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for his game “Cranky Uncle” for iPhone and Android phones.

According to a George Mason university press release, Cook has spent over a decade studying different ways to counter misinformation. He is now combining his research into behavioural techniques, critical thinking, cartoon humour and gamification into a smartphone game.

“Misinformation does great damage to society,” Cook said. “An essential solution is making the public more resilient against fake news. But how? Gamification is a powerful approach that can potentially reach many millions of people.”

In the game, players are mentored by a cartoon Cranky Uncle who is dismissive of climate science. As they learn to recognize the flaws in Cranky Uncle’s arguments, they gain points. This is based on a behavioural technique called active inoculation.

Cook has already tested a prototype of the game in various college classes.

“My students appreciated the combination of humour and real-world examples, while I appreciated how engaged they were in learning how to critically think,” said Melanie Trecek-King, a professor at Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts. “Learning how not to be fooled is empowering.”

Image credit: Yura Fresh via Unsplash

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