Saturday, October 3, 2020

Are conspiracy theories like video games?

From Wired magazine October, 2020
 WHEN QANON EMERGED in 2017, the game designer Adrian Hon felt a shock of recognition.

QAnon, as you very likely know, is the right-wing conspiracy theory that revolves around a figure named Q. This supposedly high-ranking insider claims that the deep state—an alleged cabal led by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros and abetted by decadent celebrities—is running a global child-sex-trafficking ring and plotting a left-wing coup. Only Donald Trump heroically stands in the way.

It's nonsense, of course. But what intrigued Hon was the style of nonsense. It is addictively participatory. Whenever Q posts about the conspiracy, Q leaves cues - Q drops - on image boards like 8kun that are cryptic and open ended. 

MSN comments
Are conspiracy theories like video games and people are attracted to solving the crime/puzzle posed? Is it a case where virtual reality intersects with actual reality and game players have difficulty discriminating the difference? Are conspiracy theory game players delusional, i.e. insane when they no longer can tell the difference between reality and fiction? Remember the case of Edgar Maddison Welch who left his home  in Salisbury, North Carolina to go to Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC, which conspiracy theorists told him was the base of a pedophile ring organized and operated by Hillary Clinton in December of 2016?

Here is how the event was described in a Rolling Stone article about what happened.

Three days later, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a .38 handgun and a folding knife, he strolled into the restaurant and headed toward the back, where children were playing ping-pong. As waitstaff went table to table, whispering to customers to get out, Welch maneuvered into the restaurant’s kitchen. He shot open a lock and found cooking supplies. He whipped open another door and found an employee bringing in fresh pizza dough. Welch did not find any captive children – Comet Ping Pong does not even have a basement – but he did prove, if there were any lingering doubts after the election, that fake news has real consequences.

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