Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"The best way to think of QAnon may be not as a conspiracy theory, but as an unusually absorbing alternate-reality game with extremely low barriers to entry"


The “Q” poster’s cryptic missives give believers a task to complete on a semiregular basis. Even more so than conventional video games such as “Fortnite Battle Royale,” which rolls out new seasons with new scenarios roughly every 10 weeks, QAnon is open-ended — or it will be as long as the revelations continue.

You don’t need a game console or a special keyboard to engage with QAnon, and you don’t need fast reflexes or a knowledge of keyboard shortcuts to be an active and successful participant. The initial posts from “Q Clearance Patriot” appeared on 4chan, and QAnon discussions migrated from there to Reddit and then on to 8chan. YouTube video creators have found that QAnon content is a lucrative niche; there are active QAnon Facebook groups. And apps such as QDrops, banned from the Apple store but still available for Android, can deliver news of fresh Q pronouncements straight to a user’s phone.

Once a person has started consuming QAnon content, the actual gameplay is relatively simple. Participants concoct their own interpretations of Q’s gnostic “bread crumbs,” or share those dreamed up by others.

If this were a conventional game, the play might end there. But QAnon players have shown an increasing tendency to enlist the rest of us as unwilling participants in their fantasies, sometimes with violent consequences.


In 2018, a man used an armored truck to block traffic at the Hoover Dam while holding a sign demanding action on a QAnon priority. And earlier this year, a man allegedly killed reputed mafia boss Frank Cali while attempting to perform what he apparently described as a QAnon-inspired citizens arrest.
Related: In a chaotic world, escape rooms make sense
They are called escape rooms. They sell an experience. The experience is escape, both literal and metaphorical. For around $30, you and a handful of friends/colleagues/strangers are “trapped” in some kind of space together and must collaboratively puzzle through a series of challenges to win your freedom. The clock is ticking: You get 45 minutes, or 60, or 90, to escape, although if you fail, they let you out anyway. Usually, the game offers some kind of story to help explain why you’re solving puzzles in a room with a countdown clock. Often, it involves a serial killer.

Escape is big. There are, by the most recent unofficial count, at least 2,300 escape rooms in the United States. They are a new staple of corporate team-building, which puts them in an elite category of activities you might be required to do with your boss to prove that you are a team player who loves bonding. Brands like HBO and Ford have been creating promotional escape rooms for years now; Red Bull runs a whole Escape Room World Championship (the Slovakian team Brainteaselava holds the current title).
*Previously: "L.A. Has A New Immersive Mystery Game That Lasts All Year"