I lost The Game (and so did you)

The Agitator just infected me with a nasty little mind virus called The Game.
I would just like to tell you that you should feel regretful about spreading the meme-virus of “the game” by means of your blog several years ago.  If by some miracle you have forgotten about this by now, let me remind you: the game is, when you think of the game, you lose.  The “losing” part of this turns out not to be conventional, like losing at a real game.  Rather, the losing is the distraction and annoyance you experience when this useless, stupid thought intrudes itself upon your consciousness.  For me, this happens every few months, for a few days or weeks at a time popping up every few hours.  During really bad times, the very thought of recall becomes infected by the game, and whenever I think about remembering anything I remember the game.  I don’t think I will ever permanently forget.

One of the worst parts of the game for me is my knowledge that I can never tell anybody about it unless I want to spite them.  Because I do not want to subject them to this virus of thought.  Why did you not have the same thought before you recklessly posted this on your blog?  I hope that you feel at least some pangs of conscience over this act.  You have done some really wonderful things through your journalism, and in many ways I admire you, but–and, please understand, this e-mail is NOT in jest–I wonder how you could have done such an ugly, inconsiderate thing.

Undoubtedly, writing this e-mail will make me think more often of the game for a little while.  That is unfortunate, but I have thought about writing this note many times.

One More Thing: You All Just Lost The Game


  1. No, you have half an hour to forget again before you can lose.

    How does this work with blog postings, I wonder? Half an hour after you read it? Half an hour after the posting was made?

    I don’t view it as a curse that I’m visiting upon others, but more of an interesting study of how ideas can be like viruses.

  2. Heh, enjoy your continued process corruption people; I only ever lose in singleton events.

    Guess I just don’t give the meme enough importance to truly bother me – which is the only way to minimise the loss heuristic. :D

  3. Each time I think of the game I am reminded of the complexity and wonder that is the human mind and the fascinating ways that ideas can be seen to mimic organism in the way they propagate. F.T.W.

  4. I would proclaim that I have won The Game by the fact that I refuse to acknowledge its existence, but that would in itself assert that The Game does exist. I suppose I too must invoke the Calvinball clause.

  5. @Jake von Slatt

    Check out Pontypool (movie)/Pontypool Changes Everything (book) for a horrific look at the idea of words/thought as a “living” thing (trying not to give too much away). I wasn’t impressed by the craftsmanship as much as the many, many converstaions my friends and I have had about the ideas therein.

  6. I wonder why the Agitator’s reader seems so worked up about this. They use pathology terms to describe the game; when I originally had it presented to me, years ago, it was just a fun, silly diversion. Amongst my friends, it’s become something of a challenge to get other people to admit to “losing” without declaring that you have lost yourself. Unless this reader is limited to a fixed quota of thoughts per day, I think they should let it slide.

  7. Damn it! I had been winning for about 6 months now!

    Kinda like those “x days since accident” signs. Staring at 0 again!

  8. This is one of those things that my stoner friends at university were harping on about 10 years ago. It struck me as stoners trying to appear more intelligent and insightful than they actually were, and gave them something to debate the tits off when they were high.

    Personally I forgot about it. If it’s a virus, then I’ve always been immune.

  9. When I first heard of this meme, I thought it was cute, but I simply decided not to participate. It hasn’t bothered me at all since then.

    Note that I don’t claim that I have thereby won – since I am not playing, I can neither win nor lose.

    If you can’t just reject the primary assumption (that you must begin to play it simply because you read the rules), reading up on meta-logic (as discussed in many puzzle books by Raymond Smullyan) may help. And if you’d like to help spread a less annoying meme, try the graphic virus.

      1. Since I never started to play it, I suppose that I indeed cannot ‘stop’ playing it…

        Do you always do things just because someone on the Internet told you to do them?


    Entitled: TREATY 391 (FOR http://xkcd.com/391/)

    As it is true that:

    1.) “the game” has been going on for years.
    2.) It has outgrown itself.
    3.) It’s meme quality has degenerated.

    Here on this day, January 25, 2010, we the undersigned declare:

    1.) The website xkcd.com has provided ample evidence that “the game” is, in fact, over.
    2.) We agree that we have, in fact, won.
    3.) We will lament no longer the trials of “the game”.


    -Rev. Benjamin

  11. A game, especially one of skill, requires victory conditions, not just defeat conditions.

    The Game was never a game, so it has never bothered me.

    None of you were ever players. I hope this comes as a relief.



    PS – I have just purchased real estate in your mind.

  12. How is this different from the concept of “original sin”? Choose not to play and when you do think of the game think of it with scorn, and smile. You do not have to accept the games rules, you can make up your own.

  13. ja – everyone’s playing.

    I worked out a simple way to do better at the game – cheat. It’s allowed, sort of, as there are no penalties for cheating. When you think of the game just don’t tell anyone, this will help you think of the game less often.

    1. The rules assert that if you hear about the rules, you’re playing the game. I do not accept this rule and I do not abide by any of the other rules. In what sense, then, am I ‘playing’ it?

      Am I supposed to be playing just because the rules claim that I am? Or because people who choose to play claim that I must be playing too? I don’t think that either position is defensible.

      If you think that reading a game’s rules forces you to follow the rules of the game, try this little game I just wrote:


      Rule 0: By reading these rules, you are now playing this game and must abide by all of its rules.

      Rule 1: Make an exact copy of these rules and post them on a different Internet forum than the one where you first encountered it.

      Rule 2: Shut your computer down, dismantle it, donate it to charity, and never use the Internet again under any circumstances.

      Rule 3: Congratulations! You win!

      1. Well, I lost your game, but now it’s over? See, all those times you lost the game, you started playing again, (that’s how it works).

        For the record, I consider the game a wonderful sort of social welfare; nobody likes a winner, and the game’s nice enough to keep us all from being one.

        1. I think you’re missing my point. I haven’t ‘won’ or ‘lost’ this game because I never started playing it. I rejected its hook rule and never followed any of the other rules.

          If you assert that I am playing just because you say so, I will assert that I am not playing because I say I am not. Thus, all we have to do is evaluate the rule itself. It should be clear that the rule can only have force if one chooses to accept it, even though the rule tries to make it sound as if it is involuntary. The rule is not a natural or civil law. It is not enforced by any entity other than your own mind. It only has power if you choose to abide by it.

          If it really is the case that just reading a rule can force you to follow that rule, then my ‘Fade to Black’ game above should eventually drive everyone off the Internet. I don’t think that’s at all likely to happen, do you?

      2. Now that I think about it, this game would just result in the deletion of most Internet fora, and not drive almost everyone off the Internet. Here’s an amended ruleset with more teeth:

        FADE TO BLACK v1.1

        Rule 0: By reading these rules, you are now playing this game and must abide by all of its rules.

        Rule 1: Post, Email, IM, Tweet, and otherwise distribute an exact copy of these rules to as many people as you can. Do not spend more than two hours on performing Rule 1.

        Rule 2: Shut your computer down, unplug it, donate it to charity, and never use a computer or the Internet again under any circumstances.

        Rule 3: Congratulations! You win!

        That should do the trick – provided that playing The Game (or one like it) is involuntary.

  14. there must be something wrong with me as I never found the game either funny, insightful, virally infectious or anything other than dull.

    When someone tells me “you just lost the game” I feel as if they just said “your leg is on fire”, when it patently isn’t. It’s beneath stupid, below lame.

    Hey everyone – you are now all part of “The Plan”, now everytime you see a red thing I just won!! Wheee !!!

    Wow, I’m a viral genius.

  15. This post struck me as a kind of win big by losing small.
    Participation in “the game” can have some advantage.
    You see while suffering from some mild insomnia last night I hit upon the observation that some of those same reoccurring thoughts that can keep one awake at night seem to become “diluted” if one considers enough pestering thoughts.
    Adding “the game” to that truckload of minor regrets and nagging mysteries has diminished the significance of all by one “importance unit”.

    (I may have to sleep on this to prove it’s worth.)

  16. Like some others above, I’m vaguely aware of this game, but have never bothered to care about it. My question to the rest of you, in seriousness: why is it that you care? And did at some point you say to yourself “Ok, I’m now going to start playing the game?” Or did you decide that you don’t get to decide?

  17. Damn you!
    I lost the game. :(

    I remember playing this during my long breaks in college many years ago. lol

  18. Additionally, you are now conscious of your own breathing, and are having to breathe manually or else you will suffocate.

  19. If the nature of the game was instead: when you think of the game you WIN! Would it just not work at all?

    Is there something about our brain where failure makes us take special note, but success means we can put it away and not worry about it?

    and if so, wow.

    1. there is indeed something in our minds which keeps track of what fails. it’s easier to assume that if we can keep track of what doesn’t work for us and avoid it we can live without constant thought of what to do. just meander as you please and only worry when you approach a situation where you are reminded of a previous failure.

      from now on I’ll have to train myself to avoid registering a sentence that lets me know I’ve lost the game. if i see the words and have trained myself to not be able to comprehend it then I can never lose

  20. This reminds me of meditation practice and the ‘goal’ (of ‘not thinking’) that many seek.
    For many, thinking is obsessive and at times, sorrowful. In the practice of observation of the thinking mind, noticing that there is thinking is an opportunity to release the focus on that thinking and allow for the presence of awareness.

    The Game, however, doesn’t really seem to have anything but loss and sorrow, the only way to win is to be unaware. May be useful as a means to understand the nature of the thinking mind.

  21. okay game on!

    whether you choose to ignore the game or not doesn’t matter. if the game resides in the conscious mind of even one person it is still on. only when all who know of the game have completely forgotten it or passed on will the game end. unless a token of the game is left for another to find in which case it is back on again.

    if you think you have the choice to decide if you are playing or not you’re wrong. just like if you think you have the choice of deciding that the game is over or not.

  22. I guess I’m impervious to the game. I don’t feel as though I’ve played any game that made any more sense than a chaos theory game of “try to start a rainstorm by batting your eyelashes”.

  23. if the rule were just “when you think about it you lose” that would make it recursive, not viral.

    what makes it viral is the other rules:

    rule 0. if you’ve heard about the game, you’re playing the game.
    rule 1. if you think about the game, you lose.
    rule 2. if you lose, a new round begins for you and you must declare to everyone present that you lost.
    rule 3. if someone asks you what the game is, you must tell them these rules.

    NOW it’s viral. — ifatree

  24. This game is inherently stupid since one of the proposed rules is that you start playing once you learn about it. You can if you want to, but I don’t know why you would: no one ever forces you to play Monopoly just by mentioning it; games are something you have to choose to play.

  25. Does not being able to figure out how to play the game constitute playing the game? AND, if I have fully accepted in my heart, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am , indeed, a loser at all things with no chance of salvation, mean that I, in fact, win the game? I submit the number of commas used in the last sentence as further evidence that I am a loser. And, oh how I wish I could say that I am being facetious, but I’m not.

  26. My son has a shirt that says, on the front: “If you read the back of this shirt, you will….”, and on the back, it says: “lose the game.”

    He still gets people that come up to him in public places and affectionately call him a little bastard.

  27. A friend tried to infect me with the Game a few years back. Recognising that my brain was particularly susceptible to this kind of nonsense I point blank refused to participate.

    I remain Game-free to this day. Which is great because I can torture all my Game playing friends by saying “Hey, do you remember that Game thing…?”

  28. i’d far rather obsess on this than my usual hang-ups. for fucks sake. you guys are way too healthy if this bugs you.

    “Cellar door.” looks like the attic to me.

  29. I never saw a purple cow;
    I never hope to see one;
    but I can tell you anyhow;
    I’d rather see than be one.

    1. Or as Burgess later wrote,
      Ah yes, I wrote the “Purple Cow”
      I’m Sorry now I wrote it
      But I can tell you anyhow
      I’ll kill you if you quote it!

  30. You really oughtn’t force The Game upon people. In polite circles, you never teach someone about the game without first offering that they do not want to know about it. They must insist that they really do want to learn it.

    I thought you were better than this Mark.

  31. Here’s a simple solution, brought to you by your friendly local Anon, presented in a logical statement. The 34th rule of the Internet is that if it exists, there is porn of it. The Game is featured in no known porn (I check periodically). Therefore, the Game does not exist.

    Go about your lives.

  32. Christ I hate this thing. Hey, guess what!?! You’re all playing a new game I just made up, called “I’m a big toolwad!”. No, really, you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it! Honest!

    Now, jump up wherever you are and shout “I’m a big toolwad!”. You have to, you’re playing my stupid fucking game I just made up!

    Also, you have to wire funds to my Swiss Bank account. Don’t ask questions. “I’m a big toolwad!” Woo!

  33. my friends and i started playing this when we were 15 (we’re 23 now) and every once in awhile i still remember that i’ve lost. this thing has long teeth.

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