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 Hat, Joseph 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’.
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.