Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It Reeks of False - The Fake Gaming News Problem

Video games have a fake news problem too. Every news type does these days. As more content is pushed online for instant likes, shares, and retweets, the truth becomes buried or lost entirely. It's been more pervasive as of late as Facebook becomes the hub for content for all things real and fake. Searching for content to discuss here on The Geek Spot is a daily challenge. More often then not I will see "GTA6 Confirmed!" scrawled across my news feed from websites that provide no sources or fact checks. If there's a quote involved, more often then not it's entirely made up.

The fake news is starting to outweigh the real gaming news, and that's not good. When the first thing that appears is "GTA6 Confirmed!" after typing "video games" into the search bar, there is trouble afoot.

For the record, no Rockstar Games has not confirmed a GTA6. Please do not spread that nonsense, okay? Be patient and wait for the word to come direct from the developer, not a gaming news site.

So why the burst in fake news? For some writers it can be a quick claim to fame or a fun way to troll. For most, it's all about the revenue. Websites like TheBitBag pay writers based on the number of times articles are viewed. If a news piece is shared over 10,000 times on Facebook, that could net quite a bit of money for the website and the writer. This is why we have click-baity headlines like "Microsoft Kills Halo 7." If you're a Halo fan, you are probably going to click on that article regardless of how absurd the headline is. And that is partly why fake news is doing so well in the digital age. People are quick to click on headlines that catch their interest and accept the content as truth because it's from a "news source." It does not matter if the article is untrue. The website and the writers get paid from the increase views, and continue to pump out more fake articles. Sadly this can result in real harm over time. As more people view the fake news sites, the legitimate gaming content gets pushed to the side. GameSpot could face cutting back their work force to accommodate the loss of income.

What can we do to thwart it? Well for one, STOP CLICKING. If you see an absurd headline, then it's probably not true. Don't feed the machine.

Do your research. If you are reading a story from an unknown gaming site double check the resources. Good articles will typically link back to their source materials or provide links on where you can learn more. Big gaming sits like Gamasutra, Kotaku, and GameSpot will most likely already have the content. They report on everything gaming. Now there are very rare occasions where they slip up and let a fake article that looks too real slip through the cracks, but for the most part they are reliable sources to confirm news.

Use common sense. If Breitbart News is claiming that only liberals play video games, it's a fake article. If a user on BubbleNews (which is 100% user based and has no researchers or writers on staff) posts that the next Fallout will take place on Mars, ignore it and go about your day.

Yes it does mean that we will have to vet the legitimate gaming news sites too. But as a writer, I welcome it. I want you to fact check me and my peers. Because we give a crap about what we post and we want it to be accurate!

Be safe with your clicks, vault dwellers.

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