The phenomenon of fake news has only recently been given a tremendous spotlight and taken seriously on a mainstream level. It went from source-less Facebook posts to unverified tweets that went viral to the current level where fake news is now an entire profit-generating industry.
There will doubtless be academically rigorous papers written about the rise of fake news and what contributed to its ascension, but for the most part a severe lack of critical thinking and the power of echo chambers seem likely culprits.
You may think fake news is a full length article that spreads lies, but that is not the full picture. It can be argued that fake news starts with people spreading misinformation, deliberate or not, which lays the foundation for full length pieces. With that thinking, misinformation at a comment level is already fake news. This is where the problem begins.
Fake News In Our Own Backyard
South Africa, and more specifically the local gaming scene, is not immune to this phenomenon of fake news. I’ve often covered topics around the importance of diversity and representation in the local scene. Just as often, I’ve been met with resistance around what I’m saying.
I’m often told that the lack of diversity in the local scene is due to cultural differences that leads to gamers of colour not playing as much as their white counterparts. One comment went so far as to bring in made up ancestral influences leading to gamers of colour not being comfortable playing games.
Differing interests is another reason cited to explain why gamers of colour and women are not often seen in the local scene. Add to that, income inequality and apparently this accounts for why the scene is predominantly white and male. The takeaway from it all seems to be, this is just the way things are naturally.
You know what grinds my gears? This bizarre assumption that PoC don't play video games.
— Nicholas Hall (@nickhallsa) January 18, 2017
The key takeaways from the thread are as follows:
- 78% of PC and Console gamers in the country are black
- 44% of PC/Console gamers (or mid-hard core if you prefer those numbers) are women
- PoC are far less likely to play online, which is due to not having decent internet penetration rather than not having access to PC/Console
The thread was the result of Nicholas reacting to the same views I faced in many of my articles. People perpetuating incorrect, but ultimately comforting, views as fact – the very thing fake news does currently. I’ve spoken to Nicholas directly and whilst the source of these statistics cannot be made public just yet, the sources are credible. There will hopefully be a follow up article once he’s able to make these statistics available.
The Danger of Fake News And The Harm It Causes
The danger of fake news has been largely ignored, given that it was initially limited to people publicly naming and shaming brands and random people on social media. Since it seemingly affected the US elections, to some degree, it has been given a more serious analysis.
Aside from the reasonably significant influence fake news had on a global power’s democratic elections, fake news also damages society by perpetuating a harmful viewpoint through misinformation.
This is evident locally in the constant narrative being told that people of colour and women just don’t play games as much as white men. This is a dangerous narrative that only serves to perpetuate the unhealthy status quo.
Never mind that this narrative reinforces an unhealthy landscape, misinformation also leads to actively holding back growth in the scene. Whilst many in the scene are championing for minorities, be it gamers of colour, women, LGBTQ, disabled and more, they often come up against resistance that relies on false narratives to justify their actions.
Challenging progressive views based on misinformation harms the growth of the industry. People are out here telling real stories and raising valid points and they are shutdown by people quoting incorrect facts. It’s a lazy cop out that allows people to avoid dealing with the real issues in the local scene.
Defeating Fake News And Taking The Scene Further
Africa is a continent renowned for its lack of accurate data, when it comes to anything important. Even in South Africa, we can’t agree with the government on what the real unemployment rate is. In the local gaming scene, the scarcity of real data is even worse. We need more research done in the scene, like the one undertaken by Nicholas and co.
The local scene also needs to stop perpetuating misinformation and wake up to the facts. In a country that is predominantly non-white, pretending that the gaming scene is naturally majority white makes no sense, and the statistics prove that.
An issue that is given less of a spotlight, but often rears its head in arguments, is this idea that anecdotal evidence on its own is significant. To those of you guilty of this thinking, it is not. Ever.
Fake news thrives on this mentality, where people have anecdotal evidence and then begin to search online for the first article that verifies it as truth. This is where a lack of critical thinking is exposed, as the source is not questioned nor is an opposing view researched to provide an argument.
The future is bright for SA gaming, and based on the growing number of people attending events, local gaming YouTubers, competitive teams and more, the scene is looking healthy. Despite this, let’s remember that fake news has harmed many positive projects globally. Let’s not let our local scene be another victim to fake news and misinformation.