QAnon, Ong’s Hat, and Robert Anton Wilson: Joseph Matheny discusses ARGs and conspiracy theories in the Internet era

When the QAnon movement began garnering more widespread attention a couple of years ago, a number of game designers pointed out the similarities between the ‘Q drops’ – and the associated community puzzle solving in regards to those – and the techniques used in alternate reality games (ARGs) (see here and here, for example). Not necessarily that it was an ARG, but that it (knowingly, or unknowingly) used the methods found in ARGs to hook in new players, and to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction.

So I was fascinated to listen to a recent interview with Joseph Matheny, creator of the now-legendary Ong’s Hat – described by many as the world’s first ARG – in which he discussed QAnon from his own viewpoint (see video embedded below). Matheny notes that he feels obligated to talk publicly about QAnon and Ong’s Hat, because “they’re using my methods and I don’t like that”, and also because people have been comparing the two, which upset him. “I mean…it follows the formula,” Matheny says, “but content-wise, and intention-wise, it’s definitely nothing like it.”

When the QAnon movement began garnering more widespread attention a couple of years ago, a number of game designers pointed out the similarities between the ‘Q drops’ – and the associated community puzzle solving in regards to those – and the techniques used in alternate reality games (ARGs) (see here and here, for example). Not necessarily that it was an ARG, but that it (knowingly, or unknowingly) used the methods found in ARGs to hook in new players, and to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction.

So I was fascinated to listen to a recent interview with Joseph Matheny, creator of the now-legendary Ong’s Hat – described by many as the world’s first ARG – in which he discussed QAnon from his own viewpoint (see video embedded below). Matheny notes that he feels obligated to talk publicly about QAnon and Ong’s Hat, because “they’re using my methods and I don’t like that”, and also because people have been comparing the two, which upset him. “I mean…it follows the formula,” Matheny says, “but content-wise, and intention-wise, it’s definitely nothing like it.

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