I lost The Game. In fact, simply writing this article has caused me to perform rather poorly. What am I talking about? I am talking about “The Game” of course.
The Game is a mind game based on a rather simple idea: if you think about The Game you lose it. (By the way, everyone in the world is playing whether they know it or not.) Additionally, if you lose The Game, you must announce the fact to those around you. (If there is no one around, I suppose a brief text message or e-mail would suffice.) That’s it. Now go and be tormented by The Game for the rest of your life.
The Game appears to be one of those spontaneous “schoolhouse” type games that have spread across the world, largely by word of mouth. According to losethegame.com, it was developed by members of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society. From there it spread. Today, Wikipedia even has an article on The Game. Whatever its origins, it actually makes for an interesting psychology study. The psychology underlying The Game is called ironic processing and the idea is that the harder one tries to suppress a thought, the more often it comes. This makes doing well at The Game all the more difficult. Not surprisingly, I noticed that cheating at The Game (i.e. not announcing I have lost it) results in losing the game less in the long run. Don’t cheat though. It takes all the fun out of The Game.
Just because The Game is so simple does not mean it is devoid of strategy. Finding creative ways to distract oneself is a good start. However, the much more fun strategies revolve around making others lose the game. Placing notes about The Game around the house where others will find them (where you won’t look first) works. These places could range from a book, to a car dash, to the underside of a toilet cover. Another idea is sending time delayed e-mails to others, the time delay being used to keep the sender from thinking about The Game while sending the message. Another strategy is to make others associate something with The Game, so whenever they see or think about that thing, they lose the game. Use caution and watch what you associate with The Game yourself. If you’re not careful, you may, for example, lose The Game whenever you think about this website.
Other people I know play The Game with different rules and sometimes in absurd ways. A common variation, is establishing a grace period during which The Game cannot be lost. I’ll grant that one should be allowed to forget the game before losing it again. Otherwise, the person would have to be continuously saying “I lost the game.” However, I think a half hour grace period is a little extravagant. Some people I know even grant a grace period to anyone in the vicinity of someone who has lost The Game. This makes it so that only one person can lose The Game at a time. Personally, I think that takes away from the spirit of The Game. Incredibly, some people think the game will end when Gordon Brown loses The Game on TV.
Any good game needs some official competitions. One informal tournament of The Game could go as follows: Gather any number of players. Whoever loses The Game first is out and everyone else advances to the next round which will convene shortly thereafter. A less practical idea for a competition involves attaching everyone to some sort of brain scanner and seeing who thinks about The Game for the least amount of time. A rather ridiculous idea is to give each individual a button that they press whenever they are thinking about The Game. Whoever presses his button for the least amount of time wins. (I don’t expect that last idea to work.)
If until now you have been winning The Game (I don’t think it’s possible to actually win without dying), I pity you for finding this article. Meanwhile, I will do my best to forget about The Game…