QAnon as a collaborative, investigative alternate reality game

QAnon is like an alternate reality game (ARG), says ARG designer Adrian Hon. Charlie Warzel of The New York Times interviewed Hon about the parallels between a conspiracy theory and alternate reality games. Hon had a number of interesting insights about QAnon:

  • "It's a collaborative fiction built on wild speculation that hardens into reality."
  • "Many people feel alienated and left behind by the world. There's something about QAnon like ARGs that reward and involve people for being who they are. They create a community that lets people show off their "research" skills and those people become incredibly valuable to the community."
  • "A lot of it is about a lack of trust. But also a lack of comfort with ambiguity. In reality, the answer to most hard questions is, 'It's complicated.' But people want definitive answers. Many of these theories provide that feeling for people. When really everyone needs to be a bit more comfortable with ambiguity."
  • "What concerns me is that right now it is quite easy for bad actors to see what has worked with QAnon and try to copy it. There's a playbook now. Any groups can hijack it. It wouldn't take a lot to try and replicate it."
  • "You can make projects and build community that harnesses that positively. The same way bad actors can look at QAnon and find a playbook, so can good actors. We can find similar ways to motivate alienated people in a more constructive way. At least I hope so."