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The Best Video Game Ever?

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Gamers have been waiting with bated breath for the past seven years, but our wait will soon be over. In the second half of 2007, we'll finally get our hands on Spore, the latest game from Will Wright, famed creator of Sim City and The Sims. Judging from the media hype surrounding Spore, it's bound to be a huge hit.

Since beginning development in 2000, Wright has occasionally given demos and lectures about Spore, which is the first mass-market game based on generative systems. What's a generative system, you ask? In short, rather than creating a set of canned content -- creatures, environments, etc. -- the content is all user-generated, and it follows simple mathematical rules to create interesting and unique gameplay possibilities. In the game, you design a simple multi-cellular and guide it through its adventures an ever-evolving world, populated by creatures and environments from other players.

Composer Brian Eno described generative systems by saying: "You make seeds, rather than forests." In Spore, your seed (well, your "spore") is a dynamic entity that grows and changes in response to the environment -- and to your tinkering, as its creator. In the last stage of the game, your spore creates a spacecraft and flies through the universe, meeting other civilizations...and sometimes destroying them.

It's fascinating stuff both for gamers and for math geeks (and yes, we're aware of the overlap there!). Recommended viewing:

UPDATE: corrected the spelling of "bated," having learned something from commenter Larriann. Thanks!

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Pop Culture
Can You Spot Fake News? A New Game Puts Your Knowledge to the Test
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Bryn Dunbar

In 2017, misinformation is easier than ever to access. During the 2016 election, scammers—including hordes of Macedonian teens—raked in serious money by churning out deliberately fake stories about U.S. politics, with a very real impact. In a December 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 64 percent of U.S. adults said that fabricated news was sowing "a great deal of confusion" about current events.

It can be hard to determine what’s real and what’s fake in the viral news world. A new game—expected to launch for iPhone on July 10—will test your skills. Fake News, designed by the creative agency ISL, asks players to distinguish between headlines found on true stories and headlines drawn from fake news sites (as determined by fact-checking sites like Snopes, Politifact, FactCheck.org).

The simple, arcade-style game for iPhone asks you to swipe left on fake headlines and swipe right on true ones. You have 100 seconds to sort through as many headlines as you can, competing for the highest score with other users. For instance, did Arby’s really get its name because “RB” is another way of saying roast beef? (No, RB stands for Raffel Brothers, the founders.) Does Jeff Goldblum really have a food truck named Chef Goldblum’s? (Kind of. It was a film promotion stunt.)

Fake News also exists as a physical arcade game. The creators installed a table-top arcade game in a D.C. bar on July 5, and may install it elsewhere depending on demand.

The game is harder than you’d expect, even if you think of yourself as fairly well-informed. As research has found, viral stories require two things: limited attention spans and a network already overwhelmed with information. In other words, our daily Internet lives. The more information we try to handle at one time, the more likely it is that we’ll fall for fake news.

Scientists found in a recent study that warning people that political groups try to spread misinformation about certain issues (like climate change) can help people sort through dubious claims. While that’s good to remember, it’s not always useful in real-life situations. It certainly won’t help you win this game.

One of the reasons Fake News is so hard, even if you keep abreast of everyday news, is that it doesn’t tell you where the headlines are from. Checking the source is often the easiest way to determine the veracity of a story—although it’s not a foolproof system.

Need help finding those sources? This Chrome plug-in will flag news from troublesome sources in your Facebook feed.

Update: The game is available for iOS here.

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What's the Kennection? #152
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