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Gamifying Twitter for Political Dissent

We will discuss the gamification of social media for political dissent with a focus on the microblog platform, Twitter, and our game WarTweets. While social media has been a crucial instrument for the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, the anti-austerity Spanish Indignados Movement, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and many other movements, games on social media typically only leverage the platform to recruit and retain players. However, games and social media have been used by tactical media artists to encourage dissent and reach mass audiences. For example, Critical Art Ensemble and the Carbon Defense League’s collaborative GameBoy game Child as Audience was shop dropped, or reverse shoplifted, with the intention to directly intervene in the spectacle by hijacking video games to provoke rebellion. In the game, you have to ditch school, sell drugs and to gain access to a brothel. The Twitter platform is a direct result of tactical media. The initial SMS version of Twitter was built from code that was initially created for TXTMob, an SMS application developed for protestors by the tactical media group Institute for Applied Autonomy. Phone story, by Molleindustria, reflects on the making of iPhones and was tactically conceived of for the iPhone. Originally, it could be downloaded as an iPhone app, but it was banned just a few days after it was posted in the iTunes store. WarTweets attempts to harness and gamify the political and democratizing power of Twitter. Sustaining meaningful political discourse that doesn’t dissolve into insults and ad hominem attacks can sometimes be an arduous process. By gamifying engagement with President Trump, and leveraging the cooperative elements often used in real-time social games, WarTweets is an experiment in using games to create sustainable political affinity groups.

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