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Project Axon is a VR game that shows how fake news spreads

Image Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

If you’ve been online, you’ve seen fake news. A team of graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University created a virtual reality game called Project Axon to raise awareness about how our own behavior on social media platforms can contribute to this problem.

The team hails from the Entertainment Technology Center at CMU, a two-year master’s program that focuses on interactive entertainment. It works closely each year with Games for Change on projects tackling social issues for its annual festival.

Dave Culyba, an assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellion’s ETC, oversaw the project. In a phone interview with GamesBeat, he said that Games for Change asked them to create a group game involving VR that deals emotions and neuroscience. The team decided to dive into fake news.

“[The students] pitched ideas and researched and looked into stuff,” said Culyba. “One piece of their research got into fake news, sort of the bubble effect, but also the psychology of why we accept some things and reject other things. That legitimately came from the emotion and neuroscience perspective.”

Project Axon is a large-scale group game that involved 100 participants. The players were split into two groups and told that they were alien civilizations at war with one another. One player, dubbed the Ancient One, sat away from the others with a VR headset and made decisions and passed judgment based only on the information the rest gave them via a mobile app.

The Ancient One would only see the top four headlines on a kind of social media feed in their headset, which the rest of the players controlled indirectly by liking stories on their app….

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