Conspiracy as ARG: media and game essence of QAnon

Cover Page

Cite item


The results of a comparative analysis of the functional features of the QAnon theory and the conceptual signs of ARG (games in alternative reality) are displayed. The signs of ARG are designated and given as elements of the reference game model, the basis for comparison. The authors found that the QAnon conspiracy theory, the history of its emergence and development features is of a synthetic nature: ARG elements are present in modified form. They transform the roles of developers and participants. The QAnon quest structure was visualized, the gameplay based on experiencing the state of apophenia - a painful search for a connection between random phenomena or events - was described. The similarities of QAnon with religion and at the same time political ideology based on the mechanics of the game were identified, which explains its popularity. The relevance of the topic is due to the steady growth in the number of conspiracy theories and their followers since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic against the backdrop of audience distrust in the media. The authors demonstrate how QAnon, not being essentially a game in an alternative reality, but using game technologies and eschatological narratives about the Great Tribulation and Judgment Day, achieves high efficiency in shaping public opinion.

About the authors

Leyla O. Algavi

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5335-8506

Candidate of Philology, Associate Professor, Department of Theory and History of Journalism, Faculty of Philology

10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Gregory A. Budtsov

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0214-5794

Master's student (Modern International Journalism), Faculty of Philology

10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Georgy S. Kovalev

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0097-3633

PhD student, Department of Theory and History of Journalism, Faculty of Philology

10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Nino Skvortsova

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University); E.M. Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center

ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0470-7508

project coordinator, E.M. Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center; political observer of the informational and analytical platform Press Club Jayran Media; PhD student, Department of Public Policy and State and Law History, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation; 2 Baku St, Tbilisi, Georgia


  1. Barkun, M. (2013). A culture of conspiracy: Apocalyptic visions in contemporary America. University of California Press.
  2. Brett, N. (2021). Moments of political gameplay: Game Design as a mobilization tool for far-right action. In: M. Devries, J. Bessant & R. Watts (Eds.), Rise of the Far Right Technologies of Recruitment and Mobilization (pp. 215-236). Lanham, Boulder, New York, London: Rowman & Littlefield.
  3. Gianotti, L.R.R., Mohr, C., Pizzagalli, D., Lehmann, D., & Brugger, P. (2001). Associative processing and paranormal belief. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 55(6), 595-603.
  4. Hook, A. (2017). The game did not take place: Performative play and relational art in alternate reality games. In: A. Garcia & G. Niemeyer (Eds.), Alternate Reality Games and the Cusp of Digital Gameplay (pp. 56-74). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  5. Jones, S.E. (2008). The meaning of video games: Gaming and textual strategies. Routledge.
  6. Kattan, J., & Vigdor, W.R. (1996). Game theory and the analysis of collusion in conspiracy and merger cases. George Mason Law Review, 5(3), 441-456.
  7. Kunshchikov, S.V. (2008). Does conspiracy science need rehabilitation? Tempus et Memoria, 3(6), 129-134. (In Russ).
  8. Moula, E., & Malafantis, K. (2019). From literature to alternate reality games: Prerequisites, criteria, and limitations of a young adult novel’s transformational design for educational purposes. Advances in Literary Study, 7, 224-241.
  9. Palmer, C., & Petroski, A. (2016). Alternate reality games: Gamification for performance. A K Peters/CRC Press.
  10. Shilina, M.G. (2022). Mediatization in the new normal as transgression: From metaphor to concept? In Russian PR: Trends and Drivers: Collection of Scientific Works in Honor of Professor V.N. Stepanov (pp. 68-72). St. Petersburg: UNECON Publ.
  11. Shilina, M.G., & Volkova, I.I. (2022). Actual transformations of Russian public relations in the context of the “new normal”. In L.K. Lobodenko & L.P. Shesterkina (Eds.), Transformation of Media Communication Strategies and Tactics under Pandemic Conditions (pp. 31-41). Chelyabinsk: SUSU Publ. (In Russ).
  12. Sunstein, C.R., & Vermeule, A. (2008). Conspiracy theories.
  13. Szulborski, D. (2005). This is not a game: A guide to alternate reality gaming. Macungie, PA: New Fiction.
  14. Volkova, I.I. (2018). Screen-based game communications as an indicator of the perception of media reality: The social status & generation aspect. Bulletin of Moscow University. Series 10. Journalism, (4), 124-138 (In Russ.)
  15. Yablokov, I. (2020). Russian conspiracy culture: Conspiracy theories in the post-Soviet space. Moscow: Alpina Publ. (In Russ.)
  16. Zwierlein, C. (2013). Security politics and conspiracy theories in the emerging European state system (15th/16th c.). Historical Social Research, 38(1), 65-95.

Copyright (c) 2023 Algavi L.O., Budtsov G.A., Kovalev G.S., Skvortsova N.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies