A browser window with a mockup of a game meant to innoculate users against misinformation.

Games inoculating against misinformation

Reducing spread of misleading and polarizing content

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What It Is

An educational game presenting common manipulative communication strategies to vaccinate against future exposure to similar strategies on social media (for example Get Bad News).

When To Use It

In the weeks preceding events where malicious actors are expected to influence the collective discourse by spreading deliberately misleading or divisive claims.

What Is Its Intended Impact

By exposing users to the most common strategies of disinformation, for instance thorough personification of a malicious actor, these users will have been exposed to a ‘weakened’ version of these strategies and will be more likely to spot them in the wild and consequently to engage less with them.

Evidence That It Works

Evidence That It Works

Gamified inoculation is a development of the inoculation theory first proposed by McGuire (1970): the idea is to expose users to a mock version of a false or misleading argument so that users will be more likely to recognise the same argument in real contexts. In this sense, inoculation interventions are a sort of prebunking. For this specific type of intervention, Inoculation has been gamified, presented in the form of a game where participants can learn about the different arguments/communication strategies by, for instance, personifying the evil spreader of misinformation. Several studies support the idea that these games can help reduce the spread of false claims (Roozenbeek & van der Linden, 2019; 2020a; 2020b; Basol et al., 2020; Basol et al., 2021; Roozenbeek et al., 2022; Winkler & Cook, 2022) and deliberately polarizing content (Harrop et al., 2022). These studies are typically survey experiments in which participants are asked to evaluate a series of social media posts in terms of how reliable or manipulative they are. The same posts are rated before and after having played the inoculation game, with a control group perhaps playing another game such as Tetris. The long-term effects of the interventions on misinformation spreading have also been tested, with promising results (Maertens et al., 2021).

Why It Matters

There has been increasing concern with the growing infusion of misinformation, or “fake news,” into public discourse and politics. Inoculation is one avenue to help protect people from their damaging effects.

Special Considerations

There are however several limitations to this intervention: first, there is evidence that gamified inoculation engenders  general skepticism towards all content, whether trustworthy or not (Modirrousta-Galian & Higham, 2023). In addition, this approach has failed to reduce misinformation spreading in a non-western country such as India (Harjani et al., 2023).Further, it is not clear exactly how games can be integrated in a meaningful manner in the daily routines of online users on digital platforms. To our knowledge, no research has been conducted directly on social media, nor is it clear how these games could be seamlessly integrated with these platforms. On a related note, most of the evidence on gamified inoculation relies on self-selected, convenience samples: participants were mostly male, well-educated, left-leaning, and young. The fact that these games attract a specific category of users raises the question of how to appeal to a wider audience.


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Fake news game confers psychological resistance against online misinformation

Jon Roozenbeek, Sander van der Linden
Palgrave Communications
June 25, 2019

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