I am not a gamer. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not a spreader of falsehoods. I don’t even generally tend to click when I see something specifically clickbaity BUT I found this Go Viral Game fascinating, eye-opening and a bit scary.

The home page says “GO VIRAL! is a 5-minute game that helps protect you against COVID-19 misinformation. You’ll learn about some of the most common strategies used to spread false and misleading information about the virus. Understanding these tricks allows you to resist them the next time you come across them online. Scientists who worked with us on the development of GO VIRAL! found that playing the game significantly improves people’s ability to spot misinformation about COVID-19. Their study was published in the journal Big Data & Society.” Read the article HERE.

This game is the product of a collaboration between the SOCIAL DECISION-MAKING LAB at the University of Cambridge, DROG, BAD NEWS, GUSMANSON, and the UK CABINET OFFICE and is aimed at users over the age of 15.

I had a go and my first thought was that I found the language and tone jarring, it didn’t ‘speak to me’, but I persevered.

The game is a series of challenges in a fictional social media world, asking you to make choices on various scenarios.

The aim is to teach you to spot manipulation techniques which use emotionally evocative language. It focusses on three manipulation techniques commonly used in COVID-19 misinformation: fearmongering, using fake experts, and spreading conspiracy theories. I highly recommend having a go. You’ll discover that “Spreading conspiracy theories is really easy: pick a topic and a target to blame, and connect the dots. And voilà”.

There are various interventions across social media aiming to disrupt and stop the spread of misinformation. I like the prompt on Twitter that asks ‘do you want to read that article first’, and more recently the trials on ‘you are entering a heated debate’ (I’m paraphrasing).

This game is another tool and I think it’s effective. The narrative is interesting (despite the jarring language) and informative and according to the article linked above “Go Viral! participants rated misinformation about COVID-19 as significantly more manipulative one week after the intervention, and were also significantly more confident in their judgments and experienced more motivational threat to defend their attitudes.” The article also introduced me to a new word ‘prebunking’ – Preemptively debunking (‘prebunking’) misinformation is regarded as a promising step towards building attitudinal resistance against misinformation.

At the end of the game it says “Pay it forward – fight the spread of misinformation by challenging your friends and family to GO VIRAL!” So I am. Have a go at Go Viral, then pass it on.