In this episode, we sit with Reed Berkowitz, who has over 25 years of experience designing, writing, and researching award-winning interactive experience for some of the largest entertainment companies. We talk to Reed about all things fiction including what happens when fictional and real worlds collide. We kick things off by hearing more about Reed’s childhood and what fictional stories gave him that he couldn’t find anywhere else. After hearing about how fiction can help you conquer fears and life’s adversities, Reed continues by contrasting the difference between entertainment and escapism.
As our conversation deepens, we talk about QAnon and discover how this movement has uncanny similarities to an alternate reality game. Reed touches on the structure of alternate reality games and introduces listeners to concepts like rabbit holes, trailheads, and the communities that take part in solving puzzles. We then take a look at the disconcerting psychology behind this real-world alternate reality and hear about epiphanies as well as pre-schizophrenic states and delusional thinking. In the latter half of the show, Reed tells us how we can avoid slipping into this rabbit hole through building and nurturing connection with others, before explaining how video games can bring people together. To conclude the show, we ask Reed how video games can inspire social discourse and activism to become more fun and engaging. To hear his response, and much more, check out one of the links below:
Key Points From This Episode
Fiction gives us what is missing from our lives in reality. Maybe it’s courage, maybe it’s structure, maybe it’s something else. Analyzing why you enjoy certain types of fiction will reveal things about your life that can help you improve it.
“Fictioner” is a generalized term coined by Reed to replace specific terms like ‘reader’ or ‘viewer,’ since now fiction exists in our world in many forms. A fictioner is the counterpoint to the author — one is making the fiction, one is using it. Fiction is an activity, and a fictioner uses what they consume to manipulate their inner world.
QAnon has the structure of an alternate reality game. It starts with a rabbit hole, a strange thing that happens to catch your eye, followed by a trailhead that reveals information, patterns, questions — where you discover an entire community trying to solve the same puzzles.
Keeping connected to as many people as possible from different backgrounds and beliefs will prevent you from slipping down a rabbit hole, because it helps to innoculate you against false narratives.
Videogames (and other hobbies) can bring people together because when you’re playing, you don’t care what someone’s political preference or race is.
“I was a pretty stereotypical nerd growing up and fiction was important to me. It supplied all the things that I wasn’t getting growing up, and I didn’t get it from sports. I didn’t get it from my family.” — @soi [0:02:20]
“There’s going to be a time when we’re never, not in a fictional world — at least partially. With persistent gaming and things like that, it’s going to be really different than it’s been ever before.” — @soi [0:03:31]
“You don’t have to remember your dreams for them to be valuable to you because you had them. Whatever the operation that occurred is done, so you don’t have to remember every book you read for it to be useful.” — @soi[0:12:56]
“QAnon is an alternate reality game in its structure. Not in its content but in its structure, and it exactly copies that format.” — @soi [0:17:32]
“I think the biggest inoculation is having meaningful connections with people and going out of your way to do it.” — @soi [0:31:07]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode
Benjamin Von Wong
Reed Berkovitz on Twitter
Reed Berkovitz on LinkedIn
A Game Designer’s Analysis of QAnon
Dungeons and Dragons
Conan the Barbarian
Assassin’s Creed Tours
Alice in Wonderland
Why So Serious
Save the Children
World of Warcraft