agents of influence
THE SPY-THEMED VIDEO GAME THAT TEACHES STUDENTS TO NEUTRALIZE MISINFORMATION.
You, the Player Character (PC), move across the country with your older sister, Dawn, to start high school at Virginia Hall High (VHH), where your grandpa, Teddy, is a social studies teacher. You soon learn that Teddy has been hiding a secret past: during the Cold War he was a super-spy for the Omni-Directional Organization for Propaganda and Surveillance (OOPS). Teddy also reveals that Virginia Hall High is built on top of the defunct OOPS headquarters. Now, as you start classes, mysterious things start happening: students start disappearing, glowing spectral figures start appearing in the halls, and Teddy begins rumbling about his arch-nemesis, Nepravda, and Neprevda’s group Harbinger. Teddy believes they’ve returned and are targeting students at VHH with disinformation schemes. Along with Taylor Jones, a precocious senior who is Teddy’s mentee and spy-in-training, you found the Agents of Influence, a secret student spy organization dedicated to finding the truth to stop Harbinger and save VHH.
We expect a complete Cyber Danger module with practice room, teacher dashboard and performance/feedback system, and some supplemental partner content to be available
Expanded Vision of the Full Game
The expanded vision of the full game, which is in development right now, focuses on three modules. Each module plays out a different conflict between Harbinger and the Agents of Influence and focuses on the mis/disinformation sphere through a different lens.
Module 1: Cyber Danger
Cyber Danger covers concepts including data security, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and privacy.
Module 2: Political Bias
Political Bias covers concepts including depolarization, echo chambers, elections, and logical fallacies.
Module 3: Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience covers concepts including advertisements, scams, health, and digital footprint.
Each module contains episodes - or short missions - that can be played within a classroom period and can be played as a set or individually. Each episode covers at least one of the core games, so that over the module students get practice playing the core games in different contexts.
Module 4: Finale Duel Game
The Finale Duel Game is a cumulative test of the skills learned in the other three core games, requiring empathetic listening, lateral reading, and media analysis to succeed.
Accessible for Classrooms
Each module will have 3-4 hours of playable game content, resulting in 10+ hours of content overall. We’ve designed the game flexibly so teachers can use as little or as much of this content as meets their needs.
At minimum, teachers can play one episode with students, practicing one of the three critical thinking skills and foiling one of Harbingers plots.
The game is web-based, so students can log on outside of class. For teachers looking to get more out of the game, we recommend assigning students to play additional episodes as homework, whether on library/computer lab computers at school, at a library or after school program, or at home.
We’re also including supplemental features for more ease of use: 1. A practice room, where students can practice just their critical thinking skills through core games at different difficulty levels and 2. Side quests that go in-depth on particular pieces of knowledge (for example: a side quest on logical fallacies) in the time of one class period (30-45 min).
Planned Game Improvements
Based on our first rounds of interest, The following improvements and features are currently being added to the playable prototype to make this vision possible and accessible for all kinds of students.
Core game 1: Conversation
Reframed to emphasize empathetic listening.
Logical fallacies no longer core part of game
Core game 2: Research
Reframed as a choose-your-own-adventure spy mission
Use lateral reading to overcome obstacles by using research skills
Shorter text length to match desired reading level
Other media options (video, audio)
Further clarification on some ambiguous questions
Fully playable Cyber Danger module, containing ~10 episodes including intro and finale episodes. Middle episodes can be played in any order and fit within a classroom period. Each episode is its own complete story focusing on a particular critical thinking skill and stopping a particular harbinger plot. In total, 3-4 hours of playable content including a suspenseful spy story, challenging gameplay, and memorable characters.
Finale Duel game for end of module that tests empathetic listening, lateral reading, and media analysis all in one.
“Presence” feature where students earn in-game points for completing quests and can spend those points to customize a character avatar.
Practice room feature. Students can play core games outside of story context, choosing between different difficulty levels.
Side quests going in-depth on particular pieces of knowledge. Side quests for Cyber Danger module (subject to change) are Data Security/Hackers, Logical Fallacies, Algorithms and Echo Chambers, and Constructivist Media Encoding. Each side quest 30-45 min.
“Infoscanner” feature that allows students to mouse over vocabulary words/terms to get definitions
Infoscanner saving feature to an easily-accessible word bank
Master volume button on main interface
Educational feedback feature (aka “annotated gameplay”) that provides an immediate running commentary on students’ decisions, explaining why they’re right/wrong. Can be turned on/off easily
Miscellaneous text and interface fixes