Bots and Beer 2×07: A Short History of Alternate Reality Games

Header photo of Ong's Hat Road by Michael Szul.
Header photo of Ong’s Hat Road by Michael Szul.

Even today, the origins of Ong’s Hat—although laid out on paper and in academic textbooks—is still vague. Was it based on a previous work? Who were all the players involved and what did they hope to gain from this experiment? The “game” as it is, is at an end, but the legend continues to live on like any good mythology. In many ways, like Slenderman, Ong’s Hat is a creation of the Internet that continues to have a “reality” online even if the real world has since understood it’s fiction. It’s become a golem of words, places, and ideas that continues to trap the curious, and for those that exist and explore the virtual world, it’s as real as any historical event for it is an actual piece of Internet history, showing us how the communication of ideas can virally propel the behavior of individuals across distances far greater than any folklore could imagine.

What Ong’s Hat shows us is how technology can change and propel narratives regardless of facts. Even as Ong’s Hat was shown to be a “story” in the traditional sense, many refused to believe that it wasn’t based on true occurrences. When I reflect on our current landscape filled with false memes and post-fact Facebook posts, and I look to a future of artificial intelligence-generated deep fakes, understanding how and why narratives behavior in this way is paramount to understanding how the future of media, disinformation, and politics is going to play out.

Read the entire article at:×07-a-short-history-of-alternate-reality-games.html

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