How Mike Flynn and His Collaborators Used My Work to Psyop America
QAnon was a Weaponized Alternate Reality Game
This is a clip from the documentary American Mindf*ck that compares some of the work I did with colleagues 15 years ago to QAnon.
Personal note: The primary reasons I expose QAnon and its derivatives (QAnon+) are that I don’t want my kids bringing up their kids in a fascist hellscape and I love my country. However, the personal grudge and the secret weapon I hold is that I helped invent some of the techniques and tactics QAnon+ weaponizes for entertainment.
This is a work in progress for my paid subscribers.
A little vocabulary and a couple of acronyms
LARP: Live Action Role Play
“Live action role play” just means that someone is pretending to be someone they are not, whether it’s a nerd pretending to be a wizard yelling “lightning bolt” in the woods, or neo-nazi traitors pretending to be “Q.”
ARG: Alternate Reality Game
A fictional narrative played out online and in the real world. ARGs were originally developed for entertainment and marketing. LARPs are nearly always part of ARGs because to create a narrative, you need characters aka LARPs, to play the parts.
There are a lot of projects that could claim to be the “first” ARG, including Ong’s Hat and Blair Witch. But to me, the first fully developed ARG was “The Beast” for Steven Spielberg’s movie “AI” in 2001. I worked with the “puppetmasters” at Microsoft as it was running and ended up starting a company with them a couple of years later.
The entry point, or “rabbithole,” to “The Beast” was amazingly simple. In the credits of the movie poster there was a strange credit next to the usual ones for cast and crew: “Jeanine Salla, Sentient Machine Therapist.”
If you searched that name, it led you to a website from the future. The website behaved like it was in the 22nd century and that the owner had been mysteriously murdered. If you looked at the comments there was a phone number there, which you could call to investigate… and so on.
This went on for many weeks and got progressively more intense, including a puzzle that was an Enigma cipher that resolved to a message in swahili. Hundreds of websites were created and millions of people participated. It was groundbreaking.
I Love Bees
A few years later in 2004, I was a “puppetmaster,” designer and technical director on what is arguably the largest and most influential ARG for Halo 2.
At the end of the official trailer, the URL for xbox.com switched to “ilovebees.com.” [Mirror of ilovebees.com]
This was the only rabbithole to the game. Nonetheless, within 8 hours we had 250,000 visitors, and by the end of the first weekend two million people visited the website — in 2004.
Here’s a reporter covering what happened if you went to the website. This was in effect an early version of Pokémon Go as well as an ARG. We were providing digital clues to send people into the real world to engage with a story.
How QAnon weaponized ARGs