A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon
Playing with reality | Rabbit Rabbit
Sep 30 2020 · 26 min read
QAnon grows on the wild misinterpretation of random data, presented in a suggestive fashion in a milieu designed to help the users come to the intended misunderstanding. There are no scripted plots. There are no puzzles to solve created by game designers. There are no solutions.
Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. QAnon is a mirror reflection of this dynamic. Here apophenia is the point of everything. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions.
They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events, creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.
There is no reality here. No actual solution in the real world. Instead this is a breadcrumb trail AWAY from reality.
Away from actual solutions and towards a dangerous psychological rush. It works very well because when you “figure it out yourself” you own it. You experience the thrill of discovery, the excitement of the rabbit hole, the acceptance of a community that loves and respects you.
Because you were convinced to “connect the dots yourself” you can see the absolute logic of it. This is the conclusion you arrived at.

Everyone on the board agrees with you because it’s highly likely they were the ones that pointed it out to you just for that purpose.
Every cloud has a shape that can look like something else. Everything that flickers is also a jumble of Morse code
The more information that is out there the easier it is to allow apophenia to guide us into anything. This is about looking up at the sky pointing out constellations
The difference is that these manufactured connections lead to the desired conclusions Q’s handlers have created.

When players arrive at the “correct” answers they are showered with adoration, respect, and social credit.
Like a teenage RP, the “correct” answer is the one that the group respects the most and makes the story the most enjoyable. The idea that bolsters the theory. The correct answer is the one that provides the poster with the most credit.
It’s like a Darwinian fiction lab, where the best stories and the most engaging and satisfying mis-interpretations rise to the top and are then elaborated upon for the next version.

Even Q-Anon was only one of several “anons” including FBIanon and CIAanon, etc, etc.
Q rose to the top, so it got its own YouTube channels. That tested, so it moved to Reddit. The theories that didn’t work, disappeared while others got up-voted. It’s ingenious. It’s AI with a group-think engine.
The group, lead by the puppet masters, decide what is the most entertaining and gripping explanation, and that is amplified. It’s a Slenderman board gone amok.

Let’s go back to the arrow on the ground again.
It was not an arrow on the ground, pointing to a clue in a wall.
It was just some random bits of wood. They did not discover an arrow. They created it. They saw random pieces of wood, applied their intelligence to it: this is everything.
It’s easy for people to forget that they are not discovering the story, but creating it from random data.
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-Semetic, misogynist, and grotesque posts on posting boards that have been implemented in the fake conspiracy is supposed to be guilty of!
Q is operating in conjunction with other initiatives as documented by other sources and other developers.

The coordination is consistent.

Q helps players develop an internal world that best serves Q’s initiatives.

A game helps people build an internal world that serves them.
Let’s look at how that works.

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.

QAnon uses the oldest trope of all mystery fiction.
A mysterious stranger shows up and drops a strange clue leading to long hidden secrets which his clues, and your detecting power, can reveal.

Let’s think about this for a minute.
How many great movies books TV shows would have been forever ruined if the mysterious stranger just laid it all out for the protagonists in the first meeting.

“Jim did it. It’s Jim. He’s laundering money for the mob. Check his bank records. Never mind, I have them right here.”
The X-Files would be a lot shorter if The Smoking Man had just used his words!

It doesn’t work that way.

The fictional mysterious stranger already knows but instead of telling you the answer in the first ten minutes, they give you clues. Hard to follow clues. Ambiguous clues.
They say things like “Follow the money. Don’t let them fool you. This goes all the way to the top.”

There is no reason for this in reality, but fictionally, this is what creates the whole plot, the sense of mystery, and everything entertaining that is to follow.
This is the white rabbit.

This is the breadcrumb trail out of the forest.

It doesn’t work for reality.

Real people in the government with important information to disseminate deliver it as fast as possible usually all in one go. They don’t make you solve things.
They try to be as specific as possible. They are whistle blowers. Daniel Ellsberg (the Pentagon Papers). Edward Snowden. Bradley Manning. Etc.

Q is NOT a whistleblower.

Q is a “plot device”.

Q is fictional and acts exactly like a fictional character acts.
This is because the purpose of Q is not to divulge actual information, but to create fiction.

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…
This is not a real reason.
Q does not want you to come to your own conclusions.

Q is feeding you conclusions.

This is VERY important and here are several reasons why this is included in the verbiage of almost every fictional conspiracy theory ever.
dO tHe ReSeaRcH

1: Follow The Breadcrumbs

Telling people how and what they should think is the path of most resistance. Ideas that challenge us can do just the opposite of convince us or enlighten us, but further engrain our old ideas. Even when presented with factual evidence.
“It is well known that people often resist changing their beliefs when directly challenged, especially when these beliefs are central to their identity1,2,3,4,5,6. Exposure to counterevidence may even increase a person’s confidence that his or her cherished beliefs are true7,8.”
Strongly held beliefs are literally a part of us.

As such, attacks on core beliefs are treated very much as attacks on us, even as strongly as a physical attack.

“The brain’s primary responsibility is to take care of the body, to protect the body,”
Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, tells me. “The psychological self is the brain’s extension of that. When our self feels attacked, our [brain is] going to bring to bear the same defenses that it has for protecting the body.”
Why we react to inconvenient truths as if they were personal insults. By Brian Resnick

If the ideas are generated by us however, then these are the ideas we defend. If we “create” the ideas in our own minds, they become fused much more intently into our personality. They’re OURS
There is no friction. Guiding people to arrive at YOUR conclusions is a perfect way to get people to accept a new and conflicting ideology.

Getting them to arrive at the destination can be a little tricky. You have to guide them there one little step at a time.
In QAnon parlance, these steps, or trail markers leading you into the forest, are called breadcrumbs. Little morsels Q disperses that are easy to digest that lead the players towards wherever Q is guiding them. One little bite at a time.
But the breadcrumbs are not facts, they are questions. Puzzles and clues for the “investigators” to uncover.
This leads us to another reason Q would really like you to do your own research.
2: The Eureka Effect

Puzzle solving is a special way to learn and it encodes information into the brain in a different way than other learning.

Puzzles and knowledge gained through our efforts are incredibly rewarding and come with a hit of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure drug.
As far back as 1978 it has been known that having an “Aha!” moment increases retention of memories.

Recently, a report published in 2018 in the journal Human Brain Mapping found that Aha! moments also activate the brain’s reward systems.
Aha!-moments are characterized by hyperactivation in (a) nucleus accumbens, which has been shown to be involved in the feeling of relief, ease, and joy, (b) VTA, which is related to the encoding of certainty about a decision, (c) the posterior hippocampus, responsible for memory
reorganization following an insight, and (d) aSTS/STG associated coarse semantic coding.

As those structures are part of a dopaminergic pathway, associated with reinforcement, we suggest the Aha!-Moment as a special form of fast retrieval, combination, and encoding process.
Basically, that “A Ha!” moment when puzzle solving (even when incorrect) is extremely pleasurable and also may help encode what we learn in a new way.

It also helps reinforce the desire to seek out and solve new puzzles.

In other words, solving puzzles is extremely rewarding from a biochemical standpoint and the thoughts we gain from them are special to us.

3. Lamestream Media
Another extremely important “reason” for propagandists to get people to “do the research” is to instill a natural
dis-trust for society and the competency of others.

There is no need for QAnons to do the research because the fact is, the research has already been done and been done by thousands of trained professionals.
The FBI, CIA, and countless non-profits dedicated to solving the issues of trafficking and abuse have already been working on these issues for decades.

If anons really wanted to do the research they should research getting a license in social work, psychology, criminal justice
or really anything that might actually be considered research.

Do your own research means.

“Don’t trust other people. Don’t trust institutions. Listen to me.”

The conspiracy plot always has the same logic.
The reason no one knows about the conspiracy is because of the conspiracy.

Not because it doesn’t exist.

Initiates are given the tools to arrive at “their own conclusions” which are in every way more compelling interesting and solve more problems than traditional conclusions.
Because they are wrong and fictional.

4: Community
Solving puzzles together is a great way to form community and to join community.

ARGs are famous for this.

Everyone has something to focus on, a shared interest, and something to do.
The puzzles are often just a way of getting together.

If Q drops some clues, then you have something to do and you have people to do it with.

It’s bonding.

The same reason puzzles are used in corporate teambuilding exercises and party games.
Especially if those people are there with the intent to make you feel and think something specific.

To befriend you and make you feel special.

Working together on something is a great way for that to happen.
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.
This is a way of creating a rich set of random data that can be linked together by group-think to support the main theory.

It’s simple compelling with plenty of precedent to this idea too.
Everyone “knows” that there are symbols associated with magic occult closed societies.

Like the mason compass and the pentagram.

One of the groups that loves to use symbols to alert others they are a member is actually QAnon so the practice is familiar: #wwg1wga
QAnon went digging and found hundreds of images. Maybe you didn’t see it before, but now you can’t STOP seeing it.
This isn’t the first or the last symbolism meme either. Some QAnon, some pre-dating Q. They certainly aren’t hard to find once you start “researching”.
The more people try to shut it down (Google, FB, Reddit, Instagram, service providers, TikTok, etc.) the more the Q runners double down, getting ever bigger endorsements from the top politicians in the world.

There is money here and it’s not grass roots.
Facebook removed “790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads with links to QAnon. It’s also blocked over 300 hashtags across Facebook and Instagram and restricted 1,950 groups and 440 pages on Facebook and over 10,000 accounts on Instagram.”
- The Verge
The same week Facebook did this, tRUmP got on camera during a press release and endorsed them. He called them a growing, popular movement, and said he appreciated them. When asked if he was “secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals”
tRUmP replied “is that supposed to be a bad thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it, I’m willing to put myself out there. And we are actually, we are saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country.”
This is a media campaign.

This is a coordinated propaganda campaign.

800 groups?

An ARG with an endorsement from tRUmP?

An ARG with physical demonstrations organized for multiple countries and over 200 physical locations. These are not “organic”.
There is even a full-length movie out, paid for “out of pocket” that is being distributed FOR FREE to spread the word. Hundreds of publications for sale on Amazon.

This, is a lot of work.

This isn’t how games work.
This is how media/advertising/propaganda campaigns work.

QAnon needs this kind of media saturation BECAUSE it is not a natural movement.

People need to be surrounded by it on all sides.

It needs to seem popular even when it absolutely isn’t.
It needs to seem like everyone is talking about it.

They need to see it on YouTube, TikTok, in the papers, in the news, and hear it from their friends.

This is all part of making it feel “real”.

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.
But everyone who plays these games, like everyone who watches a movie or uses VR, knows it’s not real even if they are very immersed in it.

That is the fun.

Yes, games like AI (the Beast) and ilovebees ARGs pretended to be “real” but they were games set in the future
and could not be mistaken for reality. Knowing what is “in game” is a huge priority of game designers and players alike no matter how life-like the game. At least, if people don’t know if a clue is in a game or not, the result has to be harmless.
People call the actual police if they think there is an actual crime, so your players have to know they are playing a game, or else.

Of course, again, this is the opposite of the stated purpose of Qanon.

TINAG is literal.

QAnon seeks to uncover the real story.
That’s why people are calling the police, their state reps, and trafficking hotlines. Solving a tough puzzle in a game is a huge rush, but in Q it’s even more-so because IT’S REAL. They’re writing about you in every magazine. You’re on the news. Participants haven’t solved a game
they’ve solved reality! But how does the sense that the false connections the Q participants are making are REAL develop?

It’s not that strange actually.

The difference between apophenia and science is the scientific process and the reliance on proof.
People make the connection before they know for a fact if it’s real or not. Maybe it is apophenia, maybe not. It’s a hypothesis. A theory. THEN YOU TEST IT. The facts determine the outcome and then, whether it feels good or not, you accept them.
Even scientists may not want to let go of a good theory that just isn’t panning out. The feeling of correctness is over-powering. This is why people need to have peer-reviews. Colleagues need to be able to replicate results. Solutions need to be tested and the facts harnessed.
In Q, the proof is more apophenia!

Another arrow in the dirt in an endless cycle back to the central propaganda.

It has to because there is no truth.

The answer is whatever feels the best, makes the most sense, and helps the story.
Any truth is just fuel for the propaganda and reinforces the conclusions of the apophenia and central narrative.
It feels like it’s really happening.

It especially seems so when cheered on by a curated fake “community” clapping you on the back and telling you you are a hero.
For every radical leap into the void you make if you begin to lose faith or interest, you can flip on Fox News and have Senators, public figures, and tRUmP cheering you on by name in your efforts to produce a credible and intriguing narrative from the random bits of data
Just like the narrative said would happen.

In fact, “alternate reality” is highly fitting here.

Qanon is an attempt to create a new reality that can be acted on, lived in “as-if”, and manipulated, but does not match actual reality.
Because if they can do that then they can do anything they want and blame the outcomes on any fictional plot point they choose. One tentacle of a many pronged attack of boogaloo bros, Qanons, Anti-maskers, Fake News, Alex Jones, etc. scattershot programs all with the same message
The same end-game: To doubt reality.

To create the fog of war without the war.

To create a collective shared reality that they directly control.

How easy is it to live in a fantasy world?

Pretty easy actually.

Love, civilization, honor, good/evil, religion, money, etc.
What is real and what is a fiction that we have created and agreed to live as if they existed?

Maybe you don’t believe your religion is a fiction, but what about everyone else’s? Are they all equally real?

Being able to share and believe in our fictions
acting on them as if they are real, may even be one of our evolutionary advantages.

What Makes Humans Different?

Fiction and Cooperation

Is there a unique trait linking all human beings?

What's the most misunderstood fact about the…
I’m not sure how much difference there already is between what believers in Q feel now and what people who belong to a religion feel. Already the gist of the mildly religious is present.

Sound far fetched?

Believing QAnon is real, has it a religion a cult political movement
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