The big picture: For all its real-world impact, QAnon hooks people by working like a video game. Game designer Adrian Hon has argued that Qanon is a lot like an alternate-reality game, in which players follow a trail of clues online and off, to solve mysteries or just discover more clues to chase.

But QAnon also echoes other game genres, mashing them together to become an all-encompassing, highly addictive experience. Intentionally or not, it has rolled up gameplay components from the past several decades of game design.

Adventure games are built around puzzle solving, with players using exploration and trial and error to discover secrets and backstory and progress through the game. Many classics of the genre have the player unravel a sinister conspiracy.

At the center of QAnon are cryptic messages posted online by “Q,” who claims to be a Trump administration official with high-level clearance. QAnon adherents pore over these posts, often written in phony spy jargon, to divine clues and secret messages and make fresh links in the grand conspiracy aligned against Trump.