May 10, 2024

Students are role-playing as influencers in a new horror video game: How can educators empower them to play to their core?

Content warning: This article contains content that may be sensitive to students. Please review the content of this post before sharing it with your students.

Be sure to check out the suggested Huddle question at the bottom of this article to discuss this important topic with your students in class, if you feel it is appropriate.

According to a 2023 study by Morning Consult, 57% of Gen-Z students are interested in becoming social media influencers. Now, in a new video game called Content Warning, these students have the chance to role-play as their favorite influencers and experience what it’s like for themselves. 

However, this game isn’t about students playing as skincare or fashion influencers. Content Warning is about role-playing as an influencer who visits abandoned locations, such as a house or a hospital, to get views and followers. This game was designed to mimic the actions of popular content creators like Ramy Awad, who make their living on social media by visiting abandoned buildings for views. 

Content Warning has sold over 1 million copies so far and has over 6.6 million active players. This game allows students to explore content creation and is also a popular way to connect with others through the game’s proximity chat feature. While this game can be a fun alternative to social media influence, it’s important to note that the content within the game is not suitable for all students due to its horror theme. 

By empowering students to play to their core online, educators can encourage them to play video games that align with their values and avoid ones that may cause them stress or promote dangerous situations. Content Warning, while entertaining to some, is similar to popular video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which highlight harmful and illegal behaviors. Let’s explore what this game entails for students and how educators can empower students to play to their core when deciding on video games to play.

Content Warning: Can students survive as an influencer?

The new video game Content Warning was inspired by “influencer culture,” in which content creators will do almost anything to get views online. According to game designer and programmer Peter Henriksson, the game is influenced by the grind of creating content and beating the algorithms to get views… The length people will go to go viral or die trying is really something.”

Within Content Warning, students will role-play as social media content creators visiting abandoned locations to record monsters. The goal of the game? Film videos of these monsters and upload them to a YouTube parody website called “SpookTube” without getting killed. Players earn views depending on how scary their footage is and will lose if they do not get a certain amount of views within a few days. 

Students quickly adopted Content Warning, which is now one of 2024’s most famous horror games. The game’s success among students is partially attributed to its proximity chat feature, which allows players to talk with their friends and other users when they are nearby within the game. This feature is attractive to students who play as it allows them to connect with friends, especially when they don’t see each other as much over the upcoming summer months compared to the school year.

The popular student game is an adventurous alternative for students who want to explore hazardous locations like influencer Ramy Awad. However, while this is all fun and games, students should remember that the activities in this game, and games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, should not be played out in real life to protect their well-being and safety.

When students play to their core online, they align their online interactions with their core values. For horror games like Content Warning, students may feel eager to participate in harmful activities, not always resonating with the theme of playing to their core. 

Educators can empower students to play to their core by huddling on the importance of finding games that align with their values. For example, a student who is passionate about football can play e-sports as an excellent and safe way to spend time with friends online. Encouraging students to align their actions and their values will help protect their mental and physical well-being.

Huddle on “Content Warning” and empower students to play to their core

With Content Warning’s fast rise in popularity, it’s important to understand why students want to play the game to empower them to stay safe online. Some users play because of their interest in content creation, but others may play the game out of curiosity. For those who are interested in content creation, it’s important that they understand that the actions within the game should not be replicated offline. 

For students who are curious about the game, families can huddle with them to discuss whether they are mature enough to handle its content and determine if it’s suitable for them. If they do decide they want to play, educators and families can empower students to strike a balance and be mindful of the content they consume online to separate game activities from real-life behaviors.

When students successfully play to their core, video games become a fun way for students to explore their interests. So, how can educators empower students to play to their core online as they choose which video games they will invest their time in? Here are our tips: 

  1. Huddle on the differences between playing a game online versus in real life: Many students may think it’s a no-brainer to avoid acting out some of the actions they see in video games, like stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto or visiting abandoned hospitals in Content Warning. For other students, especially younger ones, it may be harder to separate a game from real life. Encourage your students to think about their values and give examples of behaviors that are appropriate in video games but not real life. 
  2. Students don’t have to follow every trend: While this game may be popular, if a student’s values don’t align with games like Content Warning, remind them they do not have to play. Social media and technology are great because there is a space for every student to play to their core. Encourage students to act in a way online that aligns with their interests and values and not to follow a trend just because it is popular
  3. Encourage students to consider their reputation: Playing video games in the horror genre is a popular way many students spend their time online. However, understanding that acting out dangerous activities in a video game is vastly different than taking part in them in real life. Empower students to take online and offline actions that positively reflect who they are by huddling with them on their reputation

When students play to their core online, they are supporting their well-being and, ultimately, their future success. To start the conversation and empower students to play to their core while gaming, check out The Social Institute’s 5-8th grade Trending Lesson: Building community and defying stereotypes as online gaming soars in 2024.

#WinAtSocial Huddle Question

Huddle with your students
Online gaming is a great way to spend your downtime and connect with friends when you can’t hang out in person. However, we want to ensure that our online and offline actions positively reflect who we are. What are some examples of appropriate behaviors both while gaming and offline?

The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in empowering students by understanding students. Through #WinAtSocial, our gamified, peer-to-peer learning platform, we equip students, educators, and families to navigate their social world – in the classroom and beyond, online and offline – in healthy, high-character ways. Our unique, student-respected approach empowers and equips, rather than scares and restricts. We incorporate timely topics about social media, tech use, and current events that are impacting student well-being and learning. #WinAtSocial Lessons teach life skills for the modern day, capture student voice, and provide school leaders with actionable insights. Through these insights, students play an essential role in school efforts to support their own health, happiness, and future success as we enable high-impact teaching, meaningful family conversations, and a healthy school culture.