Trust Me? is a social impact game designed to inoculate people against the misleading techniques used to generate and spread conspiracy theories in the online wellness community. 2020 marked a rise in wellness influencers using feminine-coded aesthetics such as pastel colours to soften and spread COVID-19-related conspiracy theories to their young female audiences on Instagram. The game equips players with the critical thinking skills needed to protect themselves against misinformation.
The game functions as a psychological ‘vaccine’ against misinformation. It simulates a social media feed and familiar text message format to present players with fictional posts that promote conspiracy theories about the pandemic. Over the course of three levels, players aim to increase their logic points by choosing answers that display critical thinking skills. Badges are awarded for each of the skills learned. The concept of the game was informed by psychologist William McGuire’s inoculation theory, which proposes that exposing people to weakened persuasive attacks can help to build their resistance against future attempts at persuasion. By offering audiences the opportunity to feel empowered to make their own judgements, the game teaches social media users the independent thinking crucial for making informed decisions.
Trust Me? was designed with ages 15-30 in mind, although everyone is welcome to play. Efforts have been made to enhance accessibility, and people from all backgrounds can enjoy the game. Trust Me? does not feature graphically shocking content. Its scenarios and characters are entirely fictional. Although it does make reference to Instagram, the game takes place in a fictional social media platform.
This game intends to be a publicly accessible media literacy tool and was developed as a university-level research project. It is not to be used for commercial purposes without permission. The game does not collect any data from individual players. For further inquiries please contact the researcher at ClaireMetcalfeDesign@gmail.com.