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'Conspiracy' blows the lid off party games

Gaming

‘Conspiracy’ blows the lid off party games

A fun quest for followers, with some education thrown in.

What would happen if Cards Against Humanity had a baby with the old Illuminati card game? You’d get Conspiracy, a party game that allows users to create their own conspiracy theories and vie for followers. Urban Games, the publisher of Conspiracy, is run by a couple in Hungary, Máté Mayer and Boglárka Benke. They are currently closing in on their Kickstarter funding goal, and you can still contribute until this Sunday.

'Conspiracy' blows the lid off party games

The game centers around two characters, Donald and Chad. Donald is “the anti-hero type” who lives “in his mom’s basement, having more guns than friends.” He is the classic concept of a 4Chan troll and a true believer to boot. Chad is his nemesis, a “covert agent of the Deep State” who “tries to discredit those who wish to uncover the truth.”

“Donald” could be seen as a reference to former President Trump, and is defined in Urban Dictionary as a type of guy who lives “a very dominant lifestyle and is in control of everything he does. It’s almost impossible to catch him off guard. From simple board games to complex situations his intelligence makes him able to defeat any enemy.” A “Chad” is defined by Urban Dictionary as someone who is “likely a white-male with an abnormally large ego, commonly in their teens or early twenties,” and the word “bro” gets thrown around a lot.

In Conspiracy, players choose a Conspiracy Card that acts as the basis for the conspiracy theory they’ll try to build in the game. Each player gets a turn with two rounds. Action Cards allow players to gain influence. At the end of each turn, the player who has the most influential believer is able to expand on and explain how their conspiracy theory works. There’s a level of clairvoyance in which you are able to view a hidden message which reveals the truth. The winner of the game is the person with the highest number of followers at the end. There’s even a “Qapitol Expansion” pack, which features a cartoon version of The QAnon Shaman!

The matter of widespread conspiratorial beliefs is a very serious one, but there’s no way to slog through what some refer to as the “Dystopian Beat” without humor, Máté says:

During the [COVID-19] lockdown, we had many, many online meetings with friends, and we have a good friend who loves to laugh at conspiracy theory believers in Hungary. There are several groups, Facebook groups, these are party groups – satirical party groups – and during one such online party, we started to make jokes about this type of thinking and we decided it would be cool to have a party game about this topic. On the other hand, we saw that these conspiracy theories became very, very popular and very widespread during the past few years. And it was a kind of shocking thing. One person who we know closely also turned towards these … and logical reasoning did not affect [her.]”

First their friend started buying into anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and from there it expanded to include 5G, chemtrails, and the existence of a “shadow government.” This familiar scenario has played out across the world as people found themselves stuck at home, scared, and bored. Some who sought answers online found themselves getting all the wrong ones.

Aside from the personal element, Máté, who is a psychologist, has a keen, professional insight into this viral wave of bad ideas. “During my therapies, I use humor a lot, because it can help very much to see the world differently through the humor.” He says humor can help people “see your thinking differently. If it is used well, it’s not hurtful, but rather it shows how twisted the root of the problems could be.”

“When we started work on not just this game, but the other games, we had a kind of background motivation: that we would like to somehow educate [people] a little bit with these games; reflect on the reality somehow,” Máté says. “And, yes, on one hand to help some people out of conspiracy theories, on the other hand to make society and the people who play the game more resilient against conspiracy theories.” Máté also did:

scientific research about conspiracy theories; how scientists look at this group of people – social sciences, technical sciences and so on. It was very very interesting how colorful of a picture [you can see] if you read very serious scientific material about the issue. Not just conspiracy theory beliefs, but also these fake science things – the “magical” medicines that cure everything and why they are so popular … You need some hope and this is what they’re selling. In the case of conspiracy theories, they’re selling the illusion of control. This world is so huge, so complex to understand and you can feel so lost; so little and weak. The system is so powerful and these theories give you a sense of control.

For the players of Conspiracy, putting themselves into the shoes of fictional characters hell-bent on destroying society with nefarious plots can demonstrate how unlikely these complex, hidden systems really are. All of the moving parts and circumstances that would go into actually enacting a conspiracy can be experienced by the player.

Conspiracy card game

Understandably, some might see Conspiracy as encouraging conspiratorial beliefs, but a close look at the intricate nature of the game demonstrates a real world application of understanding how conspiracy theories spread and suck people in. In a world awash with “brain worms,” it’s important to take a deeper look at how they spread. Conspiracy can be seen as an important and useful educational tool, a vaccination against Red Pilling.

Conspiracy is almost at its funding goal on Kickstarter, and you can help put them over the edge before 11:00 pm eastern on Sunday!

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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