A game designer explains the success of QAnon, in terms of game design

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/11/19/a-game-designer-explains-the-success-of-qanon-in-terms-of-game-design.html


I can think of few things that would annoy a Q-Anon disciple more than pointing out that the whole thing is nothing more than a choose-your-own-adventure game.


When he discusses “puppet masters”, don’t think evil right-wing geniuses like Karl Rove or Dominic Cummings or Vladislav Surkov running every aspect of the show from a secret lair. The “puppet masters” here are ad hoc leaders in the gameplay community whose status bubbles up and down according to the latest “discoveries” and how they fit into the larger narrative of recycled anti-Semitic canards. That said, there’s enough interest in supporting the meta-narrative that the usual right-wing suspects (and – never one to miss an opportunity – Putin) are putting money and resources into a co-ordinated effort to keep this nonsense rolling.

Also, “owl/Y-head symbols”? Clearly @jlw is part of the child-trafficking conspiracy, which means … BoingBoing is, too! Symbolism will be the downfall of the librul Marxist Happy Mutants!


No, you see THIS article is further proof of why Q is true, because Boing Boing is based in San Francisco, the Curiouser Institute is financed by George Soros’s nephew, gaming is important because the x-box vs. PS4/5 battle is REALLY about…


ethics in video game journalism?


No. It’s about adrenochrome. Everything comes back to adrenochrome, and you would know that if you just did your own research.


Ron Watkins is the son of Jim Watkins, owner of 8chan/8kun, who Reed Berkowitz believes is Q, or at least the current Q.


“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.”

When discussing the proliferation of conspiracy theories and theorists with friends I always point out that they both need a lot of data to help them build more and more elaborate “connections”, and the internet is a gold mine. Imagine the fun the og '70s and earlier conspiracy theorists would have had with internet searches.


I guess this “game designer analysis” is fine, if it helps people grok the situation. However QAnon is a book-standard conspiracy theory, and conspiracy thinking is a field of study in its own right that is pretty well understood at this point. It’s the same mindset that drives antivaxxers, climate change deniers, young earth creationists, and a lot of other groups. The skeptic community has been fighting this fight for a long time, but it doesn’t seem that until QAnon anyone else was taking it seriously. People have always treated conspiracy thinking as “harmless fun”, but skeptics knew better. This is what it leads to and it’s only getting worse as QAnon becomes the new model for an entire political party in a global superpower.

Irrationality is what will destroy us all if we don’t stop it.


“An important political official has tweeted the curious word, COVFEFE.”

  • “If you think this is a call for action, arm yourself and move to the desert.”
  • “If you think this is an attempt to own the libs, share racist memes on Facebook.”

I’m assuming this game designer hasn’t been in the industry for the last 15 years of “soaking whales” and “engagement”.


The article seems well-observed, but I wish it didn’t start dropping its own Q-style “who’s really behind this?” breadcrumbs halfway through. I’m not sure if that is meant to be a cute device or what, but it’s exhausting.

I assume various dark forces have invested time and money to stoke the fire, but I think it’s mainly organic, because it’s obviously capable of generating its own publicity in an emergent way. No one’s paid me to talk about it, yet here I am.

If you don’t have any skin, you’re going to get a lot of infections, and you can theorise all you like about how to make doorknobs and toilet seats cleaner, but you are wasting your energy if you don’t address the fact that you don’t have fucking skin. Just so, with QAnon / Turmp / televangelism / antivax / etc., the root problem won’t go away until we accept that a connected society needs cynicism to live.


The subtle difference between QAnon and conspiracy thinking in general is that conspiracy theories tend to have a point: vaccines are harmful, the earth is flat, climate change is a hoax, and so on. QAnon is just a conspiracy theory of conspiracy theories: celebrities are doing a thing, no wait, something else, no some other group is responsible, hey this random thing happened it clearly has this significant meaning…

It’s similar to paranoid schizophrenia, where anything and everything takes on significance and meaning, with detailed, invented back stories to explain everything. It’s not just that the leaves in your yard were put there by your neighbor, it’s that the leaves actually organic microchip controllers placed there by the CIA who are controlled by Bill Gates who is controlled by the World Bank, and they’re obviously affecting the weather which is why it’s rainy, because the rain is a chemical dispersal agent to affect children who might be playing outside, and you shouldn’t use yellow rubber boots because it’s well known that pedophiles specifically target children wearing yellow, and…


EDIT: I was wrong. This was written by someone else.

He’s perfectly clear about who he thinks is behind Q.

Jim Watkins runs 8kun and has been ‘Q’ since at least the Great Blackout of 2019.

For the uninitiated, this was a THREE MONTH period of time when 8chan went down, and the ”government intelligence operative” you pretend to believe in could not figure out how to use Twitter or whatever.

This “insider” had to wait for Jim Watkins, a washed-up, racist pig farmer and [NSFW] t-shirt merchant hiding in the Philipines, to strap his shitty bulletin board back together with smoke signals and Russian money.

Before that it was both Jim AND the venal grifters at Patriot Soapbox running Q, but Jim seems to have figured out how to cut them out when he got yanked off the internet for allowing mass murders to be broadcast on his website.


I respectfully disagree there. They all have a “surface” point. But when you dig into all of them, it’s paranoid nonsensical rambling all the way down, and nobody within the group is very aligned on anything. Flat earthers are a great example- listen to Oh No Ross and Carrie’s embedded investigation on that group- none of them agree on anything except they all feel lied to by authorities. Some people are there to push creationism, some have tied flat earth to their astrology system, some are just mentally ill. Nobody is there for the same reasons except they feel kinship to the group. All they do is fight about what “flat earth” even means.

QAnon is the same- the surface “reason” is a global pedophilia ring that Trump is going to stop, but that’s as far as it goes. When you start reading the message boards, those people don’t agree on anything and are there to push everything from antivax to alternative medicine to anti-GMO to whatever else.

The interesting thing about flat earthers is that they are extremely compelling evidence that the ostensible “topic” of the conspiracy is totally irrelevant. It couldn’t possibly matter because nobody could possibly believe such trivially disproved nonsense. Yet they do, to some degree, genuinely believe it because doing so engages them with the conspiracy and the people it in. QAnon got a lot of juice by attaching itself to Trump, but it’s otherwise no different than flat earth and all the others.


I would like to remind everyone of our patron saint Robert Anton Wilson and the 23 enigma.

The solution to the 23 enigma is apophenia.


With the Elders of Zion somehow consuming the blood of pure blonde youth at the bedrock. Every.Single.Time.


Not really.

Back in the late 90s UFO boards had all sorts of sub conspiracy theories. From aliens are replacing humans, to Aliens are here to save us from nuclear weapons. UFO’s where also often linked to other conspiracy theories, chemtrails to vaccines.

The same phenomena was true with flat earth. It was the justification for other conspiracy theories biblical turthers, to shadow government.

Monetization was why flat earth conspiracy theories took off. For con-artist flat earth was a low risk con. Didn’t cost that much to get started either.

QAnon just stole flat earth monetization model. Flat earth was the prototype for QAnon, it had the same apophenia feature, and pooling ideas till something sticky was randomly thought up.

QAnon’s innovation is having a plot device character. It probably helps that QAnon theme, is less far fetched then flat earth’s. We all know that powerful people can get away with crimes that normal people can’t.


I think there’s a comparison to be made here to the X-Files revival. One of the reasons it didn’t work* is that conspiracy theories don’t seem like harmless fun anymore. Give us a Mulder who buddies up with Alex Jones and rants about how 9/11 was an inside job and he doesn’t seem so lovable anymore.

* aside from the two episodes by Darin Morgan, which were great


Chicken dinner!