What I meant by “game”

A filter statement, if there ever was one

Original post: https://josephmatheny.substack.com/p/what-i-meant-by-game

The above excerpt is from a book I’m currently reading and enjoying, This Is the Strangest Life I’ve Ever Known: A Psychological Portrait of Jim Morrison by Ana Leorne. I was impressed by this quote because it aligns with something I am working through as I write Ong’s Hat: Compleat.

When it became clear in 2000/2001 that people clearly did not understand what I was trying to do with the Ong’s Hat “sacred game” (or living book as I often called it back then), I broke the fourth wall momentarily. I pointed out that there was and always had been an explanation on the CD ROM, which served as the center point for the game at the time. If you want to see it, download the ISO, use something like WinRAR or any ISO extractor, and open the Secret.pdf in the /eXtras folder.

Rather than calming the waters, my admission stirred some people up even more. It ultimately resulted in me canceling the game due to unbridled hostility on the forum over their inability to grasp a simple concept, such as not all play implies winners and losers. Sometimes, it can be about playing for the simple joy of playing. (Read your Homo Ludens).

The misunderstanding persists to this day, with people not being able to understand what an infinite game is and persisting in acting out the only thing they know: zero-sum games. The problem, as I see it now, is that I was speaking a language that some people do not understand. To most people, a game means something trivial or a cause to seek domination, nothing more, definitely not as something sacred.

It astounds me how incapable and unwilling so many people are to grasp a concept that seems so simple. Play for the joy of playing. More about that in Compleat in 2024.

As you can see from the quote above, Jim Morrison got it, and thankfully, I know some of you here get it. I know because you’ve written and expressed it, or we’ve spoken, and it came across. That’s why you are here. So, this is a note to thank you if you’re one of those people, and I wish you all the best in the coming year.

As a side note, in 2013, I spent a week living in Jim’s old room at the Alta Cienega motel and was surprised and amused to see the graffiti below among all the scrawls and scratches on the walls and furniture in the room.

2024 will be full of new things, some of which we might enjoy.

Ong’s Hat creator Joseph Matheny on the blurred lines between fiction and reality

Sat down and had a discussion with Greg, one of the curators of one of my favorite OG websites, The Daily Grail. LINK: https://www.dailygrail.com/2023/12/ongs-hat-creator-joseph-matheny-on-the-blurred-lines-between-fiction-and-reality/ Ong’s Hat. For those who were on the early internet and into Grail-like topics, those two words likely spark a heady sense of conspiracy, alternative science and history nostalgia. Across websites, email lists and forums devoted to those topics, there was discussion about how much of the mythos behind the many-threaded, multi-media story of Ong’s Hat was fiction, and how much might be based in truth. Could the rumours of portals to alternative dimensions have any truth? Were conspiracy theories about it being hushed up? In retrospect, thirty years later, it all seems a little quaint. We now know Ong’s Hat was co-created as a piece of ‘guerilla storytelling’ by a number of individuals which morphed into what is now known as an alternate reality game (ARG). It’s influence, nevertheless is huge – both on the ARG business and in various modern stories which echo some of its themes, like Stranger Things. But a more shady part of its influence is on the conspiracy scene, in particular the way in which it revealed how blurring fiction and reality can give birth to myths that can no longer be controlled by their creators – and create a horde of ‘true believers’ who cross the line from having fun in a game to being particularly toxic, and possibly dangerous. Those who have followed the trajectory of Pizzagate and QAnon in recent years might recognize a similar pattern, with myths that started on messageboards as LARPs (live action role-playing games) propagating out into the real world and being co-opted by bad actors. As such, when I got the chance recently to sit down and chat to the creator of Ong’s HatJoseph Matheny (embedded below), these topics dominated our discussion. I think it’s one of the most important areas worthy of talking more about, in a world now dominated by social media and influencers, in which myths of all kind are now spreading through society and being taken as reality by far too many. Especially in the conspiracy, and alternative history and science scenes, such as we’re currently seeing play out with ‘UFO Twitter’. Enjoy! From the description: Pioneering storyteller and artist Joseph Matheny joins us to talk about his seminal ‘Alternate Reality Game’ (ARG) Ong’s Hat and how, in recent years, the techniques he employed have been weaponized by others, blurring the line between fiction and reality and leading to the rise of political cults like QAnon.