Guest editorial by: RememberSekhmet
I would call this essay “President Donald J Macguffin,” but someone already beat me to that: https://www.wsj.com/articles/president-donald-j-macguffin-11581278117 This was more about Trump’s use of the Macguffin, but to a certain extent, it is Trump himself who is the MacGuffin of the alternate reality game his supporters are subconsciously playing. One thing I remember from the 2016 primary was how the Trump primary campaign structured its approaches like a reality TV game. People would win prizes for organizing supporters, and there was heavy reliance on imagery from “The Apprentice.”
I had fallen into one of many rabbit holes I like to investigate on the internet when reading about the possible connection between Qanon and alternate reality games ( https://medium.com/curiouserinstitute/a-game-designers-analysis-of-qanon-580972548be5 ). It got me thinking. If you want to know where the morality and principles of the political right have gone, perhaps they have gone the same place ones morality, ethics, and principles go when playing a game of Grand Theft Auto. Your goals in a game of GTA involve theft, support of gangsters, drug dealing, murder, soliciting prostitutes….it goes on. Most people playing GTA are extremely unlikely to do these things in real life. You do these things within the game’s reality in order to accomplish goals within the game. Then you turn your console off, and go back to your normal, law-abiding life.
Alternate reality games don’t really have a physical “off” switch. When unethically designed, they can bleed into reality, especially for the less mentally stable. The goal of the game from the beginning in 2015 has been to aid and protect Donald Trump, and ensure his success in whatever he does. That’s it, that’s the goal. Nothing more complex than that. In plot-driven video games, the greater goals and revelations come after spending a lot of game time defending and supporting seemingly inexplicable actions by other main characters in the game, especially the MacGuffin—the Assassins Order, the various mob bosses, the main character’s girlfriend to whom the player character is just assumed to be loyal, because plot. There has been nobody in politics more inexplicable than Donald Trump. But if you see him as the MacGuffin of the game, you will understand that in a game reality his actions are all supposed to make sense in hindsight, after the Big Reveal. The Assassins serve to protect humanity, as a goal given them by benevolent aliens.
You are now the player character. Tribal identification with Republicans, or being a fan of the man himself, or whatever the writers justify make you loyal to Donald Trump, like the various characters of the Assassin’s Creed video games are born into a family loyal to the Order of Assassins. Your goal throughout the game is to support and defend Donald Trump. His more inexplicable actions, the opposition, it is all part of the game. All you have to do is overcome opposition from the non-player characters (NPCs) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPC_(meme)) and support and defend Donald Trump. Everything is going to make sense at the end of the game, because it’s a game…right? That opposition ceases to be people with real concerns, and just becomes something to reflexively oppose from those nasty NPCs, like killing zombies or something. It’s a game, you are trying to get game points and win. Going against principles for which you have advocated before becomes a thing to do in order to move the game forward to the Big Reveal. It is all supposed to make sense at the end of the game, and the credits start scrolling across the screen….right?
Except this isn’t a game, this is real life. Donald Trump is at best a senile incompetent, and at worst a money launderer for the Russian Mob. Or even a senile, incompetent money launderer for the Russian Mob. His actions are more easily explained by venality and incompetence than by his working towards some goal you are not supposed to understand at this point in the game. The opposition consists of real people very inclined to hold the “player characters” accountable for their “in-game” actions in real life, long after Donald Trump has left the American political stage. And the player characters aren’t heroes, or even antiheroes. Nobody cares if you were LARPing when you committed crimes. You are still a criminal. The game is over.