Hoaxes in Social Media: Can Game-Based Learning Beat Them?





Education, False Information, Game-based Learning, Gaming, Hoaxes in social media, Teaching


In the digital era, people, especially younger generations, are increasingly turning to social media as their primary news source. Reports show a significant increase in the use of online social media networks and an increasing amount of false information spreading on these platforms. False information can have severe consequences, as seen in the recent US presidential elections, the Brexit vote, and the COVID-19 pandemic response. False news can lead to radicalization, fear, and anti-social behavior both online and in real life. Addressing false information involves more than just labeling or filtering it on social media platforms. Cognitive biases like confirmation bias or the echo chamber effect can lead to distrust of such labels. The most effective solution is prevention through education, emphasizing critical thinking skills. It is therefore important to encourage students to think critically to be as resistant as possible to the influence of hoaxes. Given that frontal education does not appear to be an effective approach to developing critical thinking, other alternatives need to be sought. Game-based learning is gaining prominence as an effective educational approach. It offers advantages like increased student motivation, a secure environment for experimentation, and the development of crucial skills, including critical thinking. Several meta-analyses showed that games can improve critical thinking, but the effect depends on factors like game genre, mechanics, instructional approaches, learner demographics, and cultural nuances. Our work is dedicated to the qualitative analysis of games enhancing critical thinking, especially in the context of building immunity towards online false information. Our primary aim is to thoroughly examine these games and their game mechanics and comprehensively assess their advantages and disadvantages within the formal educational context. We systematically playtested selected games based on criteria related to usability in classrooms. We found, that most of these games are strongly story based, typically putting the player in the role of a hoax-monger or alternatively in the role of a fact-checker. The games offer easily understandable game mechanics to support fast onboarding, and therefore offer an effective educational tool to discuss and learn more about the risks of increasing amounts of false information in online space.

Author Biography

Vajk Pomichal, University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava

Vajk Pomichal is a full-time PhD student at FMK UCM Trnava since 2021. He holds an engineering degree in intelligent software systems from the Slovak Technical University. His research at the intersection of digital games and critical thinking aims to enhance resilience to fake news, developing engaging game mechanics for enjoyable and effective learning.