Playing to Win against Disinformation: A digital game-based intervention to support online decision-making processes

Speaker 2023

The proliferation of misinformation in newsfeeds, through videos, images, and text, has created challenges for individuals in separating credible information from biased and false news (e.g. Breakstone et al., 2021; Nygren & Guath, 2022). Educational research has highlighted interventions that may promote people’s ability to navigate misinformation (Axelsson et al., 2021; McGrew, 2020; Roozenbeek & van der Linden, 2019). However, there is a lack of research investigating how to best support citizens in navigating more subtle forms of misinformation, convincing AI-manipulated images, and deep fake videos (Ecker et al., 2022). Moreover, critical aspects of education, such as actively open-minded thinking, have not yet been investigated. (citation?)

Our research aims to investigate how serious games can offer experiential learning through enactment and foster improved media and information literacy and multiperspectivity and open-minded thinking among teenagers. In our talk, we will present a new serious game design approach building on previous research on effective educational interventions helping students to identify manipulative information strategies (Axelsson et al., in review) and professional fact-checking methods (Nygren et al., 2021).

Building on our previous research and new findings on actively open-minded thinking (Roozenbeek et al., 2022), we will use a design-based research methodology to explore novel forms of experience- based learning as tools to empower students in their ability to navigate complex digital ecologies with high levels of misinformation. Our pedagogical approach is based on situated learning and transformative play, utilizing serious games to foster opportunities to develop reflective practices and technocognition (Lewandowsky et al., 2017). The theoretical framework of the research is based on inoculation and lateral reading, coupled with game content based on authentic and manipulated images and videos presented from multiple perspectives.

We aim to provide new insights into how serious games and digital resources can contribute to the education and empowerment of young citizens by fostering a more critical, constructive, and nuanced understanding of biased and false news in contested topics. We will present the process for data collection and documentation investigating the relationship between the design aspects of serious games and the use of game design and game technologies in education. We will explain how game design can support cognitive decision-making processes and causality, offering students an opportunity of metareflection over choices they have made in the game.

The development of the serious game will be iterative and user-centered, building on empirical evidence of educational benefit. Vocational program students will collaborate in the development process, ensuring alignment and benefit of a target audience noted to be vulnerable to misinformation (Nygren & Guath, 2022).

We aim to offer novel guiding principles fostering multiperspectivity through the use of serious games and player enactment of multiple perspectives. Such principles are grounded in comprehending alternative perspectives and acknowledging diverse ideas and the contextual aspects of information. Fostering reflection on assumptions, actively open-minded thinking, and multiple perspectivity is

essential in light of the ongoing “information disorder” (Wardle & Derakhshan, 2017). An increased capacity for citizens to navigate complex digital ecologies with high levels of misinformation benefits both individuals and society.


Axelsson, C.-A. W., Guath, M., & Nygren, T. (2021). Learning How to Separate Fake From Real News: Scalable Digital Tutorials Promoting Students’ Civic Online Reasoning. Future Internet13(3 60), 1-18.

Breakstone, J., Smith, M., Wineburg, S., Rapaport, A., Carle, J., Garland, M., & Saavedra, A. (2021). Students’ Civic Online Reasoning: A National Portrait. Educational researcher50(8), 505- 515.

Ecker, U. K. H., Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., Schmid, P., Fazio, L. K., Brashier, N., Kendeou, P., Vraga, E. K., & Amazeen, M. A. (2022). The psychological drivers of misinformation belief and its resistance to correction. Nature Reviews Psychology1(1), 13-29.

McGrew, S. (2020). Learning to evaluate: An intervention in civic online reasoning. Computers & Education145, 103711.

Nygren, T., & Guath, M. (2022). Students Evaluating and Corroborating Digital News. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research66(4), 549-565.

Nygren, T., Guath, M., Axelsson, C.-A. W., & Frau-Meigs, D. (2021). Combatting Visual Fake News with a Professional Fact-Checking Tool in Education in France, Romania, Spain and Sweden. Information12(5), 201.

Roozenbeek, J., Maertens, R., Herzog, S. M., Geers, M., Kurvers, R. H., Sultan, M., & van der Linden, S. (2022). Susceptibility to misinformation is consistent across question framings and response modes and better explained by myside bias and partisanship than analytical thinking. Judgment and Decision Making, in press.

Roozenbeek, J., & van der Linden, S. (2019). Fake news game confers psychological resistance against online misinformation. Palgrave Communications5(1), 1-10.

Wardle, C., & Derakhshan, H. (2017). Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking.


Thomas Nygren

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Digital Humanities Tilburg