The Game

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The Game is a name commonly used for an abstract mental game in which the object is to forget about the existence of the game itself. This social phenomenon is played by an increasing number of people throughout the world and is inherently memetic.



The Game is played on three basic rules.

  1. You are playing The Game.
  2. Whenever you think about The Game, you lose.
  3. Whenever you lose, you must tell everyone

Rule 1

Everyone is playing the game. They always have been and always will be. Participation in a game requires neither consent nor awareness of its existence.

Only when someone has told you about The Game does it become possible to lose, unless you independently create The Game.

The creator of The Game was the first person to realise he was playing, and therefore the first person to lose.

Rule 2

Loss is temporary, as soon as you forget you are playing, you start winning again.

It is possible for people to simultaneously lose The Game.

It is not easy to trick others into losing. Possible strategies usually involve leaving somekind of permanent reminder that others will see long after you have forgotten The Game since making it, e.g. answerphone messages, MSN pictures, forum posts, signs etc.

Rule 3

You must tell everyone possible that you have lost, and explain the rules to anyone who does not realise they are playing.

Rule Variations

Rule 2 is open to a number of different interpretations.

  • The broadest interpretation is that any thought involving The Game causes loss. This is hard to define, for example, does thinking about this article count as thinking about The Game? This interpretation also makes it relatively easy to accidently break Rule 3, by thinking about The Game without realising you have lost.
  • Another interpreation is that you lose whenever you remember you are playing The Game. This is subtley different from the previous interpretation, it involves becoming aware that you are a participant in The Game. It is still possible to do this without realising that you have lost, and hence accidently break Rule 3.
  • A third interpretation is that you lose only when you realise you have lost. This seemingly paradoxical version of Rule 2 is often chosen by experienced players as it makes accidental cheating impossible. This is because it is possible to think about, and even discuss, The Game without a realising you have lost.

Another aspect of Rule 2 that is commonly disputed is whether you should lose if you have been reminded of The Game by someone else's loss.


The ultimate origins of The Game are unclear, and may never be known. A number of people have claimed to be the creator and, although unlikely, it is possible that The Game was created independently at different times and in different places. At The Game Tree, a website dedicated to tracking The Game back to its originator, the longest recorded player of The Game is one Mike Codling, who claims to have been playing since 1993. He was told that it originated as the East Finchley game":

"Three young men, following a heavy night out in the west end, accidentally took the wrong branch on the northern line, and found themselves stranded at East Finchley. As they had no money, they decided to wait on the platform until the first morning service to take them back into town. To help the time pass, they decided to play a game, and one suggested that they should try to forget about where they were, and that they were playing a game, and the first one to think about the game, or about East Finchley, was the loser." [1]

However, neither the provenance of the quote nor the identity of Mike Codling can be verified with credible evidence.


It is almost impossible to take conscious steps to avoiding loss without losing. Common strategies focus on increasing the loss of others, such as placing reminders of The Game, like notes saying "The Game" or "You Lose", in locations where other players are likely to come across them. Though the person, in placing the notes, must think about The Game while doing so, and therefore lose, the person calculates that he or she will have forgotten about The Game by the time others find the note, and will therefore cause the other players to lose without losing again themself. Of course, for the player to realize this has worked, he or she would have to lose again. In schools where The Game is played, it is not uncommon to see such reminders written on class whiteboards, or pinned onto notice boards for unsuspecting students to view.


Many people who come across The Game find it pointless or absurd. Its significant differences from other games make it hard to understand in itself, as well as to why people would choose to play it. The fact that it is hard to score, difficult to devise strategies for, and that there is no final victory, means that it is frowned upon by more competetive game-players. Some would argue that it is not a game at all. Whether there is a choice in playing or not is also hotly debated.

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