The cranky uncle game—combining humor and gamification to build student resilience against climate misinformation

John Cook, Ullrich K.H. Ecker, Melanie Trecek-King, Gunnar Schade, Karen Jeffers-Tracy, Jasper Fessmann, Sojung Claire Kim, David Kinkead, Margaret Orr, Emily Vraga, Kurt Roberts, Jay McDowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Misinformation about climate change is a consequential societal issue, causing polarization and reduced support for climate action. However, the seriousness of the problem does not preclude non-serious solutions. There are numerous potential benefits to humor as a strategy to counter misinformation, such as attracting attention and engaging disengaged audiences. This paper describes a humorous serious game—“Cranky Uncle”—developed in the U.S. to inoculate players against climate misinformation. The game combines psychological research into active inoculation, critical-thinking work on misleading rhetorical techniques, communication research into cartoon debunking, and gamification. The game’s cartoon humor and the creative potential of active inoculation lends it to classroom applications; educators have thus used classroom activities to complement the game in order to improve students’ climate literacy and critical-thinking abilities. We present several qualitative U.S.-based case studies, in formal English-speaking tertiary classrooms and informal public education settings, to illustrate the utility of a humorous, game-based approach to building resilience against climate misinformation. The approaches adopted in our case studies are offered as a model for other educators looking to use interactive games to teach critical thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-623
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • climate change
  • humor
  • inoculation
  • misinformation
  • serious game


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