Lose The Game - FAQ
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Sit back, relax, and whatever you do, don't think about The Game.
Lose The Game
▪ ▪ ▪What is The Game?▪ ▪ ▪
▪ ▪ ▪Where did it come from?▪ ▪ ▪
▪ ▪ ▪How many people are playing?▪ ▪ ▪
Read on for answers to these questions and many more!
Rules & Gameplay
  • What is The Game?

    • The Game is an abstract mental game with millions of active players.
    • The objective of The Game is to avoid thinking about The Game.
    • Play is continuous and never stops. You are either losing (when you are thinking about The Game), or not losing (when you are not thinking about The Game).
    • Players who lose The Game (by thinking about it) must tell other people that they have lost.

  • How do I play The Game?

    There are two common interpretations of Rule 1. The first is that everyone in the world is, always has been, and always will be, playing The Game. The second is that people start playing The Game once they know what it is. The Game is played all the time; you cannot quit, pause or take breaks.

    Most of the time, playing The Game does not require any active input and you go about your life as normal. However, according to Rule 2, every time you about The Game, you have lost. Loss is temporary; once you stop thinking about The Game, you stop losing, but you will lose again the next time you think about The Game.

    According to Rule 3, every time you think about The Game, and hence lose, you must tell other people that you have lost. Some interpretations state that you must tell as many people as possible, while others only state that you must tell whoever you are with, or talking to, at that time.

    An example of play is as follows. After you stop browsing this website you stop thinking about The Game. Tomorrow, you meet a friend who tells you ''Hey! I found an awesome Flash game I think you'd like.''. This makes you remember reading about The Game on this website. As you have thought about The Game, you have lost, and you must tell your friend something like ''I lost The Game!'', or ''Crap, you made me lose The Game!''.

  • What are the official rules of The Game?

    It is unlikely that the true origin of The Game will ever be proven, and as such there are no official rules. As The Game spreads mainly by word-of-mouth, there are numerous variants and interpretations. The three rules stated on LoseTheGame.com represent the core rules that are most commonly played. The most common additional rule played by many people worldwide is that of 'grace periods'. This is a specified period of time (usually 10-30 minutes long) during which you cannot lose The Game after you have already lost.

  • What happens when I lose The Game?

    When you think about The Game, you lose The Game, and you have to tell people that you have lost. Some people refuse to announce their loss after thinking about The Game, and as loss is a purely mental event, there is of course no way to prove whether somebody thought about The Game or not. This makes The Game a game of true sportsmanship; a personal mental challenge. If you cheat, you are only cheating yourself...

    One interpretation of The Game is that you do not lose when somebody else announces their loss. Following the core rules however, every time you think about The Game you lose, regardless of what made you think about it. Usually when somebody loses The Game amongst friends, the original loser is 'blamed' for making everyone else lose. When friends start to associate the same things with The Game, such loss triggers will often cause them to lose The Game at the same time. This is sometimes described as 'drawing' or 'tying' The Game, but, of course, everyone still loses.

  • How do I announce my loss?

    Exactly how loss is announced is not specified, and as such it can be done in countless ways. Anything is deemed acceptable so long as it makes anyone you are with aware that you have lost The Game. The most common such phrases are 'I lost' or 'I just lost The Game' usually accompanied by an expletive or two. Sometimes an expression of frustration is all that's needed to make people know what's happened. Some people have developed sign or body language to announce their loss at times when silence is required. Check out the wall of our Facebook group for lots of people losing The Game!

    When you announce your loss to people who do not know what The Game is, they are likely to ask what it is out of curiosity. Some people play that you must explain the rules of The Game to anyone who doesn't already know, whereas others play that you can warn them about The Game first, and then let them choose whether they want to know or not.

  • Can I think or talk about The Game without losing?

    Once you begin to lose The Game regularly, you may find youself in some curious psychological situations that are hard to interpret within the rules of The Game. For example, you may discuss The Game so much that you sometimes enter such a discussion without realising that this means you should have lost. But whether you have lost or not depends on what is really meant by 'thinking about The Game'. For example, it could be interpreted as 'thinking about the concept of The Game itself' or 'awareness that you are a participant playing The Game'. If you think or talk about The Game, but don't realise this means you have lost, and hence don't announce it, does this mean that you are unknowingly cheating? The only interpretation that would prevent such cheating is the seemingly paradoxical interpretation that you only lose The Game when you realise that you have lost it...

    Another interesting situation occurs when somebody asks about or discusses The Game, without yet knowing what The Game is. If someone asks 'What is a hexagon?', are they thinking about hexagons even though they don't know what one is?

  • How do I win The Game?

    Under most interpretations, The Game can never be won, as the rules include no winning conditions. Some people interpret the rules that you are winning The Game whenever you are not thinking about it. As The Game can never be won, you have two options; to lose as little as possible, or to make everyone else lose more than you!

  • Can I keep score of The Game?

    Various methods have been proposed for scoring The Game. The simplest is that you lose a point every time you lose The Game. Other proposals involve you losing a point, but everyone you announce your loss to gaining a point, or everyone you announce your loss to gaining one point divided by the number of people (1/n). However, keeping track of scores is often difficult.

    We are attempting to launch The Game World Championship. This is a global contest to determine the best player of The Game in the world. Players must take part in a 'thinking match'. Two players compete for the period of one minute, announcing their loss every time they think about The Game. An independent adjudicator records the number of times each contestant loses and the winner (whoever lost the least number of times) is declared. It is within the adjudicator's power to disqualify any contestant believed to be cheating, in other words, if they are suspected of thinking about The Game without announcing it. If you would like to organise qualifiers in your area please contact us. Regional champions will be invited to compete with each other via webcam and a World Champion will be declared on Lose The Game Day each year.

    Our original idea for The Game World Champion was the person who has lived the longest without ever losing The Game. At the time we devised the idea, we named Edna Parker as the champion, as we assumed she had never lost The Game since her birth in 1893. We sent Mrs Parker a letter to congratulate her, but unfortunately, upon reading the letter she lost The Game and was out of the Championship. More unfortunately, Mrs Parker passed away a few months later...

  • Will The Game ever end?

    The short answer is no, The Game will never end. However, some people do play with additional rules that include conditions under which The Game can end. A number of players believe that The Game will end when a specified famous person loses The Game in public. Common contenders are the British Prime Minister, the Queen of England and the Pope. Check out our strategies page for ways to make important public figures lose The Game.

    A number of 4chan users believe that The Game has already ended. A common belief on 4chan is that whatever is written in a post with a post code ending in triple digits becomes true. Eventually, a user managed to use this to 'end' The Game on 4chan:

    LoseTheGame.com takes the following stance with such additional rules. The addition of a new rule to The Game does not change the original game, but creates a new version of The Game. If you think about the original version, you lose the original version, if you think about the new version, you lose the new version. This appears to be the most logical interpretation as both versions now exist, and both specify loss when thinking about that specific game itself. As such, the 4chan version of The Game ended according to its rules, and thinking about it no longer caused players to lose that version. However, thinking about the original version of The Game still causes you to lose (the original version), as it is a concept that does not include the 4chan triples modification. Regardless of such interpretations, 3 weeks later the following post was made:

  • What if I don't want to play The Game?

    Most players argue that according to the rules, everyone is playing The Game, and that your consent is not required to be a participant. You can of course ignore Rule 3 and not announce your loss every time you think about The Game. The Game can indeed be an inflammatory topic, and it has been banned from Something Awful forums, GameSpy forums, asdf forums, Two Cans And String Dot Com, Fairless High School (Ohio), Massaponax High School (Virginia), Lato Sensu School (Brazil), Keesler Air Force Base (Mississippi), Oakdale Public Library, Wokingham Youth Club (UK), Southport High School (Indiana) and LaPorte High School (Indiana). Do you know anywhere else it's been banned? Let us know.

  • Can The Game be studied?

    LoseTheGame.com devised a method for studying loss of The Game, known as a Gameological Self Assessment (GSA). This involves the recording of the time and cause of every loss. A trial run was terminated after 14 hours due to extremely frequent losses and possible risk of insanity. Cory Antiel, a psychology student from New York, performed a month long study involving GSAs recorded by 12 participants. The results and his conclusions were very intersting, click here for the PDF.

  • Is The Game a game, a meme or a mind virus?

    A game is commonly defined as one or more players trying to achieve an objective, a definition which can indeed be applied to The Game. However, The Game is also a 'meme', in both the modern and original meanings of the word. Richard Dawkins coined the term 'meme' in the 1970s to describe pieces of information that are stored and replicated by human minds. This makes every idea and concept, including The Game, a meme by definition. The Game, however, is an especially interesting meme as its rules represent the fundamentals of meme replication. The Game, by its nature, is thought about and then replicated to other human minds. Unlike most other memes, replication is its sole purpose. As The Game doesn't bring any benefits to those who know about it, but still manages to propagate from mind to mind, it also fits Dawkins' defintion of a 'mind virus'.
Players & Origins
  • How many people are playing The Game?

    One interpretation of The Game is that everyone is playing. Although the exact number of people who are aware of The Game is impossible to determine, over the last few years it has become clear that millions of people are losing The Game across the world, and that number is continuing to grow. Some evidence supporting this includes:

    • people have been infected by this website in the last five years, over 500,000 in 2010. The map above shows the locations of most visitors since January 2010, with the biggest red dots represent over 1000 people. Most visitors are from the USA, but Australians come top for most losers per person.
    • Over a million people lost in December 2008 when The Metro published a full-page article about The Game.
    • Over a million people lost in June 2010 when Alex Baker discussed The Game on Kerrang! Radio.
    • Over 200,000 people have joined our Facebook group.
    • Check out our awards page for more examples of The Game being documented in national media.

  • Who created The Game?

    Some players believe that The Game has always existed as an undiscovered concept since the birth of time. Such interpretations mean that The Game was never created, only discovered, and, of course, immediately lost.

    The following timeline documents historical events which may have been involved in the emergence of The Game. Such evidence appears to support the CUFS Finchley Central origin theory which is described in more detail below.

    • ~1840: Russian writer Leo Tolstoy plays a game with his brother where they must "stand in a corner and not think of the white bear... but could not possibly manage, not to think of the white bear". (source)
    • 1863: Another Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, mentions the same white bear game in one of his works. (source)
    • 1947: Paul Goodman describes a variant of the white bear game involving pink elephants. (source)
    • ~1955: John Horton Conway and David Fowler matriculate to study mathematics together at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, UK, under the supervision of Sir Christopher Zeeman. (source)
    • 1968: Ralph White describes the pink elephant variant as follows: "The moment anyone tries not to think about a pink elephant he is already thinking about it, and has lost the game."(source)
    • 1969: David Fowler and American mathematics professor, Anatole Beck, write an article about the game Finchley Central: "Two players alternate naming the stations of the London Underground. First to say 'Finchley Central' wins." (source)
    • 1976: John Conway describes a game called Endgame in which the first person to make a move loses. (source
    • ~1976: The Cambridge University Science Fiction Society (CUSFS) create a variant of Finchley central in which the first person to think about Finchley Central loses. (email contact)
    • ~1978: The BBC Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue popularises the game Mornington Crescent, like Finchley Central except that the objective is to make the game seem extremely strategic and skillful by referring to complex and confusing rules that, in fact, do not exist. Two of the panelists, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, studied at Cambridge University shortly after John Conway and David Fowler. (source: I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue 6th series)
    • 1982: Mark Haslett, a member of the 1976 CUSFS, and working for BNFL, Risley, Warrington, explains Finchley Central to his colleague, Adrian McCrickard. (email contact)
    • 1987: American social psychologist, Daniel Wegner, performs psychological studies based on Tolstoy's white bear game, demonstrating that trying not to think about something only makes you think about it even more (ironic process theory). (source)
    • 1995: UK newspaper the Independent, writes an article about two Martians playing Finchley Central after they missed their bus stop. (source)
    • 2002: Paul Taylor posts the first known description of The Game in its modern form on his blog. (source)
    • 2007: Adrian McCrickard emails us about learning the CUSFS Finchley Central variant in 1982. In his recollection, the game was created at Finchley Central station while Mark Haslett was waiting for a train. (email contact)
    • 2008: After reading an article about The Game in the UK newspaper the Metro, another member of CUSFS, Philip Brice, emails us commenting on the similarity between The Game and the variant of Finchley Central they created in 1976. (email contact)

  • What is the CUSFS Finchley Central Origin Hypothesis?

    Based on all the evidence we have collected since 2005 (see above), it appears likely that The Game emerged somewhat as follows:

    • Before 1969: John Conway and/or his classmate David Fowler create the original version of Finchley Central in an attempt to create a game that did not fit the von Neumann definition of a game.
    • Early 1970s:While lecturing mathematics at the University of Cambridge, John Conway teaches Finchley Central to his student Richard Pinch.
    • Late 1970s: Richard Pinch teaches Finchley Central to other members of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society (CUSFS). In attempt to violate the von Neuman definition even further, the CUSFS members create a parody of Finchley Central by reducing its single rule to its logical extreme; the first person to think of Finchley Central loses the game. The rest, as they say, is history.

    We have been in direct email contact with members of the 1970s CUSFS collective, which includes:

    • Dr Nigel Goldenfeld - "What's scary about all this is that it took so long for it to take over the world."
    • Mark Haslett - "We did not realise what a viral concept it was and I continue to lose from time to time now 30 years on."
    • Philip Brice - "The idea developed of a game in which you didn't know you were competing in until you weren't."
    • Dr Nick Lowe - "Our meetings are still punctuated, and often opened, with the words 'Gah! I lose.'"

    So, after more than five years of searching for its origins, is it possible that we've finally tracked down the individuals who masterminded The Game over 30 years ago? Is The Game the result of drunken game theorists, twisting an already twisted game into a form undefinable by game theory, unknowningly unleashing an incurable and highly contagious mind virus on the world?

    While there is no hard evidence to prove these claims, we have been in contact with all the above Cambridge graduates and their accounts fit with other evidence we’ve obtained over the years. Unless this is some kind of very elaborate hoax, it is certainly the most plausible account we've heard so far and the closest we've ever come to knowing the true origins of The Game.

    Although The Game contains elements of Tolstoy's white bear game, and both John Conway's original version of Finchley Central and his Endgame, the CUSFS Finchley Central variant is the closest thing we've found to The Game without being The Game itself. The key aspect it adds to to the white bear game is that it is ongoing; once you know about it you are playing continuously forever. In the original CUSFS variant, loss was announced by raising one's arm in the air, which meant that other people would not lose immediately, but rather when they remembered what the arm-raising signified.

  • How can I help research The Game's origins?

    Feel free to use the information above to try to find more evidence yourself and be sure to contact us if you do find anything interesting. We are certain there must be online references to The Game ealier than 2002, but it may still be described as Finchley Central or even a different, intermediate, name. If you heard about The Game before 2000, please give us any information you can.

    We are currently working on determining the origins of the original version of Finchley Central, and maybe you can help us! We have contacted both John Conway and Anatole Beck (David Fowler passed away in 2004) but they both must be too deeply immersed in a world of mathematics and game theory to have noticed our emails. So...

    Do you live near, or study at, the University of Wisconsin or Princeton University?

    Professor Beck is Yale University Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, and Professor Conway is John Von Neumann Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. If you could find them in person and ask them what they know about Finchley Central and its origins it could be of awesome significance to determining what is possibly the greatest mystery in the universe; where did The Game come from?

  • Are there any other origin theories?

    In the late 13th or early 14th century, Eckhart von Hochheim, a German philosopher, seems to discuss that, whilst being detached, if you think about the fact that you are detached, then you are no longer detached:

    "So she remained immovable in her detachment, and praised in herself not detachment but humility. And if she had by so much as a word mentioned detachment, and had said: 'He has regarded my detachment', detachment would have been troubled by that, and would not have remained wholly perfect, for there would then have being a going out. There can be no going out, however small, in which detachment can remain unblemished."

    'Cheers mate' is a game whereby whenever anyone asks a question, you must reply 'cheers mate' without answering the question. A British student has claimed that in order to overcome this annoying game, he added a rule that the first person to think of the 'cheers mate' game would lose. Over time, the original 'cheers mate' aspect was forgotten but the game that you lost when you thought about it remained.

    On 10th August 2002, Paul Taylor, AKA theaardvark, from Staffordshire, UK, posted the earliest known online description of The Game:

    "Okay, I'm gonna tell you about 'The Game'. I have no idea where or when this started. I found out about it online about 6 months ago. I'd quite like to know the origins of 'The Game' because it is intensely irritating..."

    John Harrison, AKA Mellowtrax and creator of justlost.co.uk, was the first to reply, and later said that he was told about The Game by a girl called Zet in 1998 in Buckinghamshire, UK. techno teacher then replied "I've been playing the game for years (learnt it on Mixmag.net in about 99), and it features at www.maggiethatcher.com/game.html". The author of that website, Simon Wells AKA Lost Cat, also claims to have learnt about The Game in 1998. Eight days later, on 18th August 2002, Kuavea posted about The Game on a BBC website. Two months later, on 21st October 2002, Jamie Miller, AKA Euryon, from London, made a post about The Game, claiming to have created it in 1996. A study of the IP addresses of early discussions about The Game on Wikipedia revealed its presence in the UK in 2002, and spreading to the USA by 2004.

    A common origin theory is that The Game was created on 4chan. Although its users have helped to spread The Game to a much wider audience, 4chan was not created until 2003, after Paul Taylor's 2002 post (see above).

  • Are there any documentaries about The Game?

    Here are some video explanations of The Game:

LoseTheGame.com was created in 2005. For more details about the creators and contributors of this website, please check out our credits page. The original purpose of the website was to provide information about The Game, and to collect data about its history to try to uncover its origins. We are still undertaking such research, and you can help by going to our contact page and telling us where and when you learnt about The Game. Once the website got more popular, its true potential was realised and we began our mission to infect every human mind with The Game. You can help make the world lose The Game by infecting everyone you can. Check out our strategies page for some ideas.