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Exploratory Study

In Winter 2021, we enlisted a number of libraries from across Washington State as partners for piloting the Euphorigen Investigation. We designed this as an exploratory study to learn about the game experience and to make improvements. We were interested in both the players (members of the general public) and librarians as gamehosts.

Our library partners were King County Library System, Spokane Public Library, Spokane County Library District, and Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries. These libraries offered Euphorigen 17 times involving 80 people.

Our research questions were:

  1. Does the escape room improve people’s understanding of various misinformation techniques, including: misleading data, deepfake images and video, and social media bots?
  2. Does the escape room encourage reflection on the psychological dimensions of misinformation, including the role of cognitive biases and emotion?
  3. Does the escape room change people’s attitudes towards misinformation and certain social media behaviors?
  4. What are the design implications of the gameplay for ongoing misinformation escape room development?
  5. Does the escape room support the roles of libraries in assisting patrons navigate misinformation?

We video-recorded the gameplay and post-game debrief discussion, administered participant surveys, and conducted a focus group discussion with the librarians at the conclusion of the study. Students in our Directed Research Group helped with data analysis.

The results were very useful…and promising. Some player statements:

“It pointed out to me how my bias might affect how I receive certain kinds of information. I didn’t realize the level of sophistication and trickery that goes into spreading misinformation - my tendency is to think that people who are susceptible to misinformation are either not very intelligent or educated…”

“It made me think more about the visual component of misinformation, particularly the computer generated images and deep fake videos. It also made me think a lot about confirmation bias and the ways that sharing misinformation on social media is really capitalizing on trusted relationships…”

“Like, in real life, if you share something on Facebook, and it gets shared and shared and shared? Can you kind of retract it and go back and follow the you know, the journey and like, basically put the toothpaste back in the tube?”