A live-action role playing game, or LARP, is a type of RPG where the participants physically portray their characters, using props and costumes appropriate to that world, while carrying out missions that cause them to interact with other live characters. They are essentially historical reenactments for events that haven’t happened.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory revolving around an anonymous figure claiming to be a member of the Trump administration revealing cryptic bits of supposedly classified intelligence about an upcoming massive purge of America’s enemies through field trials and executions.
These two things would seem to have little in common with each other. One is a fun diversion, the other a terrifying fantasy of America embracing fascism. Yet one of the most common accusation of Q believers is that the mainstream media believes it to be a LARP – something unworthy of their time and unimportant to the zeitgeist. And yet…they spend copious amounts of time debunking it. All for a LARP?
Over time, that phrase has come to encompass two separate meanings: one is that the media spends a lot of time writing about something that’s just a dumb game, and the other is that what seems like a dumb game has millions of followers and important people in its orbit, risking everything to reveal the truth.
Neither of these are true. QAnon isn’t a “dumb game,” it’s a violent, dangerous conspiracy theory that sees its followers hoovering up information about and pining for the bloody elimination of people they’ve been told are evil. And it has nowhere near “millions” of followers, and certainly no involvement in the Trump administration.
So why do Q followers simultaneously minimize and over-inflate their movement?
It’s helpful to get a sense of when the phrase “all for a LARP” entered the Q lexicon. It happened in post 174, on November 20th 2017, when Q claimed that a “coordinated effort to silence” him would “only get worse.”
Q has used a variation on this nearly a dozen times since then, and it’s become one of the battle cries of the movement, symbolizing that the media doesn’t take them seriously, except that they do.
So who was it that first called QAnon a LARP? The New York Times doing a dismissive hit piece? The Washington Post taking its marching orders from Jeff Bezos? Some liberal, basement-dwelling blogger?
No, that would be QAnon himself. In fact, the first reference I could find to ANYONE referring to QAnon as a live action role-playing game is that post from November 20th, 2017. It was Q who claimed that Q was being derided as a mere game by the mainstream media, at a point when it had almost no mainstream footprint at all.
The only real media coverage of Q at that point came thanks to Roseanne, who posted several tweets asking about QAnon a few days earlier – only to delete them and suspend her own account, likely to avoid hassles related to her TV show coming back. A few debunking news articles followed, but all came after the first Q/LARP post.
So what was the “coordinated effort to silence?” There doesn’t actually appear to have been one, other than Roseanne’s Twitter account vanishing, and she did that herself. This would be the first of many, many Q posts alleging some vast conspiracy to silence Q, when it’s really much more of the media attempting to understand a conspiracy theory that continues to morph into a violent fantasy. This is what the media should be doing.
Despite there not actually being a “coordinated effort to silence,” Q used that post to plant the seed that his movement was being attacked when it wasn’t. Then, when the movement hung around long enough (and became toxic enough) to attract mainstream media attention, Q was able to come back to it: all this is for a LARP. They think we’re nothing, yet the spend their precious time on us, therefore they know we aren’t nothing.
But again, nobody thought Q was a LARP. It’s really not, at least not in the sense that people who LARP regard what they do as a game. It has elements of an interactive game, in that its followers participate through researching and making memes.
Beyond it’s also inspired people to commit crimes. Just last week, a young man who had fallen down the rabbit hole of YouTube radicalization to embrace Q murdered his brother with a sword, because he thought he’d been co-opted by lizard aliens.
The live-action roleplaying that LARP fans carry out is not full of murderous fantasies, cries for blood, and sinister threats. It’s a fun lark that people participate in for enjoyment and to meet like-minded people.
QAnon is not a game, it’s a slow-moving psychotic breakdown. And when it goes “live-action,” people get hurt.