Pandemic and Fake News: Fun Games That Teach Important Real-World Skills?

A few years ago I came home from a workshop at the University of Victoria on the topic of games for education (or gamification) and saw my son Matthew playing an interesting web-based game at our kitchen computer. Matthew appeared to be saving the world from the spread of disease. Having just been emersed in the ins and outs of game mechanics and game goals all day long, I looked over his shoulder to see if I could figure out the “mechanics” of the game he was playing. It didn’t take me long to realize that the game Pandemic was not about saving the world from disease, but the goal of the game was to engineer a biological weapon to overwhelm the world with disease! After getting over the shock of that realization, the truly interesting aspect of the game for me became how engaging it was for my son to play. It was not only engaging, but the game also inadvertently taught the player quite a bit about viruses, DNA, and communicable diseases.

Bad News Game

I’ve just discovered a game that tries to do the same for teaching about fake news, or information literacy. The game is called “Bad News.” I believe they largely succeed in their goal to create a fun game to teach about fake news, using the same type of game mechanics as Pandemic. Instead of learning about media literacy by identifying fake news, to win the game you have to create different types of fake news to try to influence and deceive as many people as possible. Here’s the description of the game from the Bad News website:

“In Bad News, you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate. But keep an eye on your ‘followers’ and ‘credibility’ meters. Your task is to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site. But watch out: you lose if you tell obvious lies or disappoint your supporters!”

The target age group for the Bad News is 13-35 years old, but they have also developed a “Bad News Junior” edition for children aged 8-12. I’d also highly recommend this game for adults older than 35 years old. For any teachers out there, the authors of Bad News have also created a very thorough teaching guide (pdf) to help K-12 educators integrate Bad news into their classes. Bad News is played in a web browser and works equally well on laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. The game only takes about 20 minutes to complete but can be played multiple times to achieve different outcomes (i.e. to deceive more people).

I wish you the best of luck as you create multiple online personas to tell obvious lies in order to attract more followers:



Leave a Reply