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A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon

Playing with reality

© 2019 Tony WebsterAsk Me Q — QAnon” — CC BY 2.0

Guided Apophenia

In one of the very first experience fictions (XF) I ever designed, the players had to explore a creepy basement looking for clues. The object they were looking for was barely hidden and the clue was easy. It was Scooby Doo easy. I definitely expected no trouble in this part of the game.

©Art Jonak 2012 — Coolest cloud ever!CC BY-NC 2.0
© 2019 Marc Nozell QAnon in red shirt — (CC BY 2.0)

Propaganda and Manipulation

Another major difference between QAnon and an actual game, is that Q is almost pure propaganda. That IS the sole purpose of this. It’s not advertising a product, it’s not for fun, and it’s not an art project. There is no doubt about the political nature of the propaganda either. From ancient tropes about Jews and Democrats eating babies (blood-libel re-booted) to anti-science hysteria, this is all the solid reliable stuff of authoritarianism. This is the internet’s re-purposing of hatred’s oldest hits. The messaging is spot on. The “drops” implanted in an aspic of anti-Semitic, misogynist, and grotesque posts on posting boards that, indeed, have been implicated in many of the things the fake conspiracy is supposed to be guilty of!

Game Play

Q is a fictional character

I’m afraid this needs to be said. Q is not a real person, but a fictional character.

William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files Copyright Fox Broadcasting Company

dO tHe ReSeaRcH

The fictional reason Q doesn’t just tell the world what they know is that Q wants you to “do your own research” and come to your own conclusions. How polite…

Gameplay Example:

Several Q drops insinuate that the ruling class of occultists have the mandate to tell each other who they are through symbolism. A requirement even.

(Beyoncé is rumored in previous conspiracy theories to be the head of the Illuminati. See below.)
Guy de Rothschild and Baroness Marie-Hélène Rothschild

From Fiction to Reality

Already, the game mechanics have begun to turn on the participant.

Beyoncé flashing “the Illuminati sign”
Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Everything Is QAnon

Now that people are indoctrinated into QAnon, they can continue the game for themselves with very few cues. The game is everywhere.

Indoctrinating

Indoctrination is obviously not a game mechanic.

Not Organic

“It’s probably some guy who posted a few things on 4Chan and it just took off!” or “This thing came out of nowhere! It’s gone viral!” People think QAnon is viral and organic because that is the intent of QAnon. It’s part of its own story and propaganda.

This Is Not A Game (TINAG)

TINAG is an acronym for This Is Not A Game, and it is often associated with the method of running games like ARGs. These games have a theater-like quality to them which can be distracting if disturbed. It’s similar to the way that if an actor is missing a prop, they’ll just try to roll with it, because stopping the play and going out to get a new fake sword will ruin the immersion. You’re supposed to be in the world of the play, not the real world. You could just as easily say the same for most fictions.

More Reading: Other ARG Game Developers/Researchers

Jim Stewartson

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