In 2001, an ARG was released in the form of a PC game. Despite its innovation, it became a tragic failure and faded into obscurity. Join me for a look into the ARG Majestic.
Ong’s Hat, also known as The Incunabula, is the original ARG and laid the ground for all future experiments in transmedia storytelling. Join me as we take a brief look at the tale of a ghost town in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey…
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Ong’s Hat was once a small town in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. However, in the 1990’s, rumours began to swirl online of secret experiments that had taken place there by a group of rogue scientists, and that they had travelled to an alternate dimension. But what this real? Or was it in fact the world’s first ARG. Let’s explore. Patreon► https://www.patreon.com/thatchapter Twitter► https://twitter.com/that_chapter Instagram► https://www.instagram.com/that_chapter References► Photos: Misha Friedman (Gizmodo) https://weirdnj.com/stories/ongs-hat/ https://slate.com/culture/2018/10/ong… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ong%27s… https://josephmatheny.com/2012/09/29/… https://coolinterestingstuff.com/the-… https://gizmodo.com/ongs-hat-the-earl… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ong%27s… Music► City Lights – DOS-88 https://soundcloud.com/dos-88 Memory Rain The Woods Descent Dreaming Blue Casual Desire Wandering Gaze
Topics include: Crimbus gifts, planning our funerals, Scary German Lady, Philly Legends: The Bubble Fairy, Josh is home alone, Alien Alloys, BFS Road Trip, Corrections and Josh’s Chaos Dimension: Ong’s Hat, the Pine Barrens, and Joseph Matheny
Characters: Sammy Squarespace (the CEO of Square Space)
On this edition of Parallax Views, a special, previously unpublished conversation with Joseph Matheny, a pivotal fixture of the bohemian tech counterculture during the early days of the internet, who may offer a key to understanding the wild social media phenomenon of QAnon and the general hijacking of the counterculture by right-wing and corporate forces. This should be of particular interest in light of the recent FBI memo pointing towards QAnon conspiracy theories presenting a potential domestic terror threat.
Joseph Matheny is perhaps best known as a transmedia artist who pioneered the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) with the inter-based collaborative fiction Ong’s Hat. An ARG is a type of game that uses the real world as a platform and has been used in a marketing campaign for Halo 2, the Lost TV series, and Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero album. The genre has flourished because of the internet and is particularly interesting in that it does not require the player to realize that they are playing.
The parallels between ARGs and the QAnon phenomenon are striking. In fact, due to the focus of conspiracy theories and arcane secret histories found in Ong’s Hat, some have whispered that Matheny is having a bit of a laugh as the possible mastermind behind QAnon. Matheny adamantly denies this and I believe him when he says he’s not involved in QAnon. However, both of us agree that QAnon, whether knowingly or otherwise, uses the mechanics of an ARG in a way that is quite eerie.
In addition to discussing alternate reality games and things like Pizzagate and QAnon as “Dark ARGs” in the age of MAGA, Joseph Matheny and I more generally delve into how counterculture appears to have been hijacked, perhaps even weaponized, by corporate and right-wing elements.
It’s a fascinating episode that you’re not going to want to miss!
What lies at the heart of Ong’s Hat?
Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means and why it matters.
On the early internet, a conspiracy theory known as Ong’s Hat flourished. It combined real physics, speculative science, mysticism, and radical politics, to tell a tale about a secret cult of interdimensional travelers. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, clues would emerge about the travel cult: brochures, book catalogs, mysterious interviews, buried artifacts, and more. For years, users worked together to solve the mystery of Ong’s Hat and the man who masterminded it all.
Decoder Ring talks to those seekers and the man behind the curtain, to find out the truth: What is Ong’s Hat?
Download the art for this episode.
Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:
• Michael Kinsella’s book about Ong’s Hat: Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
• “Interdimensional Portal” on YouTube
• Audiobook version of The Incunabula Papers
• Scans of the original Ong’s Hat mail-art
• Joseph Matheny’s website
• Joseph Matheny’s interview on Coast to Coast AM
This episode was co-written and edited by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch. Benjamin Frisch produced the episode.
*SPOILER ALERT* In case anyone missed it, here is the game that was embedded in that episode: https://www.reddit.com/r/trustaleph/