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Finnish Trump-themed game aims to alert kids to bogus science claims

Finnish game maker Psyon Games says it has chosen a high-profile anti-hero figure for a game it hopes will help teach kids how to differentiate fact from fiction – especially when it comes to pseudo-science about issues like climate change. In Trump vs Science, kids learn to critique some of the claims tweeted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Pelin idea on "ampua" alas Trumpin möläytystwiittejä.
The object of Trump vs Science is to shoot down the Republican presidential candidate's more outrageous claims. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

The basic idea of the game developed by Jyväskylä-based game studio Psyon Games is to hurl projectiles – books, the globe, energy-efficient light bulbs, at some of the tweets Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has used to counter scientific arguments.

According to chief executive Olli Rundgren, the game is a well-intentioned attempt to help youngsters develop the art of critical thinking.

"The President of the United States is the most influential person in the world and if he utters statements that strongly contradict science, then that’s very worrying," Rundgren noted.

He said that the game encourages people – young and old – to adopt a critical approach and to discuss contradictions in global politics and science. Apart from addressing Trump’s very strident views on global warming, the game also highlights his opinions on vaccines and energy-efficient light bulbs.

The game was released during the summer and so far, players have shot down the Republican White House hopeful’s statements more than three million times.

Power in satire

The game maker said that the challenge offers the media the opportunity to do more than poke fun at Trump’s combover.

"Fun games have substance. Throughout the course of history satire has toppled dictators and that’s why they don’t like comedy," Rundgren pointed out.

The company said that if the game pops up on Trump's radar, the man himself might take issue with it - and also take action. After all it blatantly uses all of his jealously-guarded trademarks.

"This suits our values and we stand behind everything we do. And even if we lose in court, this is a great service."

Small company with big dreams

Given the current thrust and cut of US politics in the prelude to next month’s fiercely-contested presidential election, the game has attracted the attention of global media such as Huffington Post, the global education NGO CRMRubinWorld, and the Spanish-language news provider El Diario.

Global interest is exactly what the company wants, given its aim to leave its mark on the world stage. Rundgren said the firm also wants to inspire people to get interested in science, understanding and learning – online and mobile games are a convenient way to reach people who aren't big on reading.

Psyon Games is working on a second science-themed game, Antidote, that is soon to be released. It’s hoping to crowdsource sufficient funding to support the project. Competition in the global game industry is fierce, and other contenders have budgets of millions, but the Rundgren crew say they are not deterred.  Rundgren once enjoyed success in the poker world, so he’s not one to shirk risk.

"Almost all my money has been invested in the business. Risk-taking and strategy are the same in entrepreneurship. But now it feels like we’re doing something that has meaning. Every morning I wake up, I get the feeling I’m doing something useful."

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