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Been thinking about this *a lot* since Adrian pointed it out
Specifically based on all the ARG player behavior I’ve seen over the last 20 years.

I’m pretty terrified about how it plays out. No time for a thread or to write about it today though.
Sigh ok

It even “solves” the content generation “problem” that ARGs have had :(
Every single QAnon behavior I’ve seen is a 10x+ version of ARG player behavior but uncontrolled, undirected and unconstrained
It rewards independent research, gives you the dopamine hit of finding a connection “on your own” and for pros, unlike ARGs, you can generate your own content to fill in the narrative gaps *that other players will use* AND it is a threat to public safety and governance
You get the same documentation behavior as you get on ARGs with people generating documents, wikis, narratives, explanations to bring on newcomers.

ARGs are predicated on drawing together/discovering evidence to figure out an end-goal/story and "meaning"
In a conversation with a friend (I'm checking to see if I can/they want to be tagged in!) they reminded me that you get all of the local fame aspects of ARGs as well.

"The first to solve" or the "first to make the connection" that we saw way back in 2000.
I bet that in QAnon, just like in ARGs and pretty much every other online game, (and, I argue, any online social service), you get Bartle's types: achievers, explorers, socializers and killers.
Socializers: meme makers (which also creates achievement)
Achievers: connection finders, playing for local fame
Killers: *LITERALLY, FOR FUCK'S SAKE*, but also in this case, "killing"/griefing/attacking people not even playing the game
Explorers: connection finders
ARG players *want* to believe it's not a game and behave as if it isn't. They provide suspension of disbelief in, I'd argue, same way QAnon does. ARG players *also* see themselves as secret hero warriors etc, you're an avatar with power.

Here's a e.g. After 9/11, @adrianhon and I and others who were community moderators of one of the first ARGs had to come down *hard and fast* with players *convinced* that "we" could solve 9/11.
That rush of "making sense of something" and sharing it in a social sense is right there in QAnon.

QAnon is a massively multiplayer, distributed, bottom-up, undirected effort that is strikingly gamelike and has its tendrils now in politics and is a threat to public safety.
re the content generation problem for "regular" ARGs I mentioned above. For every ARG I've been involved in and ones my friends have been involved in, communities always consume/complete/burn through content faster than you can make it, when you're doing a narrative-based game.
This content generation/consumption/playing asymmetry is, I think, just a fact.

But QAnon "solved" it by being able to co-opt all content that already exists and, like I say above, encourages and allows you to *create new content* that counts and is fair play in-the-game.
Top-down, narrative-based games (where we've seen these mechanics & behaviors play out) don't do that. They burn out, they finish, they have dead ends.

That's why I'm worried: I don't know how you fight something like this.
Purely because QAnon is a, I dunno, meme-directed game (and I use meme in the original Dawkins term), where it's a game about an idea *without anyone running it*.

Part of QAnon's explict "game design" is that *there is no game designer*, there's no moderator, there's no GM/DM.
OK, I'll address this too. The real world inherently became more ARG-like. After the early ARGs came Lost. ARGs themselves are part of popular culture now. Red string murder walls are a thing. TV wanted to "be more interactive" w/audiences *thinking*.

JJ Abrams does a TED talk about Mystery Boxes etc. People who are Very Online -- from the sane to the QAnon across that spectrum now know and can rely on those investigatory, collaborative techniques.
People are asking what ARGs are: Alternate Reality Games.


I player community moderated this one: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate…

Was COO at the company that ran this one: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perplex_C…
Anyway, the meme of "thing that is online that you solve together and create evidence together and then make friends around" was starting to exist and coalesce anyway, so it doesn't matter really if Q people had ARG experience. The concept/mechanic was already leaking.
And I was going to get to it, but yes: I remember when Reddit said it would "solve" the Boston bombings.

We had the same experience in 2001 and we smacked that fucker down as community moderators. We knew the risks. We knew people wanted to do it.

I think it's not enough to just think of QAnon as "just a conspiracy theory". That's where Not Knowing What Online Means gets you, and it doesn't get you far enough.

Like I say, it's a massively multiplayer participatory conspiracy theory across multiple social platforms.
In the next tweet, I'll address this. It's a good point:

In actual-game alternate reality games, we have to work inside the frame of the game (sometimes we have a little space outside) to create suspension of disbelief, to get you to buy into "what if this was real".

(It's not actually that hard, it's just like writing a good book)
But when you have people "outside the game" in the wider world who explicitly say & acknowledge "when we act, we create reality", the rules for a massively multiplayer conspiracy theory game change.

Players are allowed to add their UGC.

It's like you're making a game or a cinematic universe or a literary universe and someone says: hey, FANFIC IS CANON.

Only this has real world consequences and *people are getting elected* because they are Bartle-type *achievers* in the QAnon game!
I'll briefly address this, too: I know people in the arg/game design community have consulted for the U.S. military.

I also know they did it for good. (If you won't, and they want that info anyway, then who will they get?)

I'm thinking out loud about this and I really, really don't want to sound like the "ok, time for some game theory" guy :(

But n the Bartle point about MMOs and player types and achievers/killers/socializers/explorers - what online game lets achievers "win" public office?
I said I'm terrified because I don't know how you beat this.

I guess I do know how you can slow it down, and one way is by using the tactic we did in 2000.

Aggressively moderate & deplatform. Shut down forums, FB groups, hashtags. All of it.
I imagine aggressive moderation & deplatforming will make it feel worse because you've got a memeplex (original Dawkins meme, etc) that self-reinforces against any external attack in this way.

The attempt to shut it down is used as evidence that the game's narrative is real.
OK, I want to address what Steve (hi Steve!) says here, too:

In a way, I *don't* see Qanon behavior, or better, "people who play/do QAnon" as "deranged". Their behavior makes sense in terms of compelling (addictive) game design & our socio-ec climate.

Remember, look at QAnon as a game as something that is *competing for your time*.

It offers rewards for engagement. *Anyone can play*.

You can onboard anywhere, because its memes/onboarding has spread everywhere. It's on goddamn FOX NEWS!

As a game, it makes you FEEL GOOD.
You're in the midwest. You don't have a great job. The prospects around you are terrible. The government isn't doing anything. There are bills everywhere.

But you can be a winner at this game.

To me, that's what's terrifying.
re the rush of Fandom:

This is what Explorer player types get. You discover a new cache of info and you get to assimilate it. You can lose yourself in it.

This one also EXPLAINS THE WORLD to you and addresses grievances. The TV is also backing it up!

and look, sorry for stereotyping the Midwest. You can be *anywhere*. That's the horrific beauty of this "game".

Its story and hook has been, I don't know, accidentally evolutionarily selected for dispossessed, disadvantaged people.

$10^6 question: how do we fight it?

You need to fight it with *benevolent* ideas, but those ideas need to be more rewarding than the existing QAnon rewards against each player axis.

I think those genuine rewards are hard to find in late-capitalism.

Anyway, hi, I've been working in game design on and off for the last 20 years, have specific experience in online social multiplayer games like and now I'm really scared.

DMs open if anyone wants to ask me more about this; I've got to go and do actual family and work time.
(Last answer)

You fight it with a robust social safety net program.

That's it. People are scared this "game" is meeting their needs in a collectively societally destructive way.

Fund social services not police services.

Black lives matter.

-- end --
Tagging / thanks to fellow ARG designer @vpisteve who I had a conversation with about this, this morning.
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