The Game (mind game)

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The Game
I lost the game.jpg
A player announces her loss of The Game at the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2008.
Designer(s) Unknown
Setup time None (or as long as it takes to explain the rules)
Playing time Ongoing since its creation
Random chance Partially
Skill(s) required Thought suppression, Strategy

The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game and few scoring systems exist. Depending on the version of The Game, the whole world, or all those aware of the game, are playing it all the time.[1][2][3][4][5]

Origins of The Game are unknown; a similar game played by Leo Tolstoy dates back to 1840. The Game has received media attention in several different countries and the number of players is estimated to be in the millions.


There are three commonly reported rules to The Game:[1][2][6][7][8]

  1. Everyone in the world is playing The Game. (Sometimes narrowed to: "Everybody in the world who knows about The Game is playing The Game",[5] or alternatively, "You are always playing The Game.") A person cannot choose to not play The Game; it does not require consent to play and one can never stop playing.
  2. Whenever one thinks about The Game, one loses.
  3. Losses must be announced to at least one person.[6] This can be verbally, with a phrase such as "I just lost The Game", or in any other way: for example, via Facebook. Some people may have signals or expressions that remind others of The Game.[9]

What constitutes thinking about The Game is not always clear. If one discusses "The Game" without explicitly realizing that they have lost, this may or may not constitute a loss. If someone says "What is The Game?" before understanding the rules, whether they have lost is up for interpretation. According to some interpretations, one does not lose when someone else announces their loss, although the second rule implies that one loses regardless of what made them think about The Game.[9] After a player has announced a loss, or after one thinks of The Game, some variants allow for a grace period between three seconds to thirty minutes to forget about the game, during which the player cannot lose the game again.[1][8][9]

A yellow post-it note reading "You lose" stuck on the underside of a toilet.
A common strategy is to leave hidden notes to make others lose The Game.

The common rules do not define a point at which The Game ends. However, one reported variation states that The Game ends when the President of the United States, the Pope, or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announces on television that "The Game is up."[6][9]

Most variations of The Game do not allow for a person to win. One interpretation is that one is winning the game whenever they are not thinking about it.[9] One xkcd comic reads: "You just won The Game" and tells players, "You're free!"[10]

Some versions propose scores: one point is lost whenever one thinks about the game, and optionally, they gain a point for every person they announce their loss to.[9]


Some players have developed strategies for making other people lose, such as saying "The Game" out loud or writing about The Game on a hidden note, in graffiti in public places, or on banknotes.[4][5] Another strategy is to associate the game with common items or phrases; this is called "drawing" or "tying".[9] Other strategies involve merchandise, spreading The Game via social media or even through petitions to make legislation relating to the game.[9]


The origins of The Game are uncertain. One theory is that when two people missed their last train and had to spend the whole night on a platform, they tried not to think about their situation and whoever did first, lost.[2][8] Another is that it was invented in London in 1996 "to annoy people".[1][11] The reported earliest known reference on the Internet is from 2002.[1][12] One website claims that The Game was created in the 1970s when attempting to create a game that did not fit with "game theory".[9]

The Game is an example of ironic processing (also known as the "White Bear Principle"), in which attempts to avoid certain thoughts make those thoughts more persistent.[8] There are many early examples of ironic processing: in 1840, Leo Tolstoy played the "white bear game" with his brother, where he would "stand in a corner and not think of the white bear".[13] Fyodor Dostoyevsky mentioned the same game in 1863 in the essay Winter Notes on Summer Impressions.[14]


A girl holds up a sign reading "You lose The Game".

The Game has been described as challenging and fun to play, or as pointless, childish and infuriating.[1][8] In some forums, The Game has even been banned.[9] The Game has been described as a game, a meme and a "mind virus".[9][10] Several newspapers have contained articles about the game.[1][2][5] Webcomics Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and xkcd have featured sketches relating to The Game.[10][15] YouTube videos about The Game have attracted hundreds of thousands of views.[16][17]

October 10 has been declared "Lose The Game Day". On October 10, 2010, Alex Baker announced his loss of the game on Kerrang Radio and Facebook[18] and Justine Wettschreck wrote a Daily Globe article on The Game.[9][19]

Number of players has claimed to have "infected" almost two million people who have viewed their website. They also claim two million people have lost The Game from mentions in a Metro article and on Kerrang Radio and that another 500,000 lost from an xkcd comic.[9]

In 2008, the largest Facebook group relating to The Game had over 200,000 members.[4]

Jonty Haywood, owner of, estimated in 2008 that "the number of active players is certainly in the millions, if not tens of millions".[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Montgomery, Shannon (17 January 2008). "Teens around the world are playing 'the game'". The Canadian Press. 
  2. ^ a b c d "If you read this you've lost the game". Metro. 5 December 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ Boyle, Andy (19 March 2007). "Mind game enlivens students across U.S.". The Daily Nebraskan. 
  4. ^ a b c Rooseboom, Sanne (15 December 2008). "Nederland gaat nu ook verliezen". De Pers. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d Verelst, Jeroen (15 March 2007). "The Game, het eenvoudigste spel ter wereld" (Subscription required). De Morgen (in Dutch). p. 2. Archived from the original on December 18, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c "The three rules of the game". Metro. 5 December 2008. 
  7. ^ "Don't think about the game" (Subscription required). Rutland Herald. 3 October 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Kaniewski, Katie (1 March 2009). "You just lost the Game". Los Angeles Loyolan. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Lose The Game - FAQ". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c "Anti-Mindvirus". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Wikinews loses The Game". Wikinews. June 7, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  12. ^ " archived blog". 
  13. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (2008). Leo Tolstoy, His Life and Work. p. 52. ISBN 1408676974. Archived from the original on July 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (1863). "Winter Notes on Summer Impressions". Vremya. p. 49. 
  15. ^ "SMBC 2227". April 26, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  16. ^ "You just lost THE GAME!". YouTube. June 18, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Demyx Time: Episode 4". YouTube. January 30, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Facebook - deadmau5". October 10, 2010. Retrieved July 6, 2014. "also, the game." 
  19. ^ Wettschreck, Justine (October 10, 2010). "You just lost". Retrieved July 6, 2014. 

External links