Game Theory of the Universe

On the game-view of the universe.

Disclaimer: this is quite long as a post, so feel free to grab some snacks and a beverage. It goes into metaphysics of one of my favourite points of view, that is to say, how to see the cosmos as a game.

The basic game of the world, and the basis of all other games, is the game of Hide and Seek. It is an immense on- and off-system. Yes and No. Black and White. Positive and Negative1 What looks explicitly different is implicitly the same. They are one. That is the secret “conspiracy” of the opposites.

Just like you cannot have a one-pole magnet, you cannot have the positive without the negative. One implies the other. That is the game2 we all agreed on. Whether we were aware of it or not. The following is an attempt to describe the game aspect of the universe and its rules.

People Play The Funny

Do people realize that they’re all playing a funny game? The game goes like this: Whatever happens from now on, let us pretend that it’s not a game.

That is the first rule. One might say that serious people find this their favourite game, but they will not even admit to playing games. That’s when the situation demands a comedic relief that reminds them that deep down inside, they’re just as rascals as everyone else.

Of course, this isn’t the only game human beings are playing. We also play social, mind, verbal, physical, sports, economic, video, and countless other kinds of games.

One can see the entire cosmos as a game from a certain perspective–the basic energy of the universe is essentially playful. From the dancing of tiny “wavicles” all the way up to spinning galaxies.

One has to keep only one thing in mind about this concept. Take the principle of a wave. Everything that has a crest has to have a trough.

You cannot have half of a wave. And when one understands that thoroughly, you have mastered the entire game. It appears to be too simple, so more detail is needed.

The nature of an energy system, such as ours, is that it vibrates. On and off. This pulsation is necessary. Without it, we wouldn’t be aware of significant changes in our surroundings or insignificant events.3

Everything in the universe has this pulse, be it light, sound, motion or even emotions in human beings.

The problem is: We tend to ignore the dark, negative, space, interval, and trough sides of things and only regard the light, positive, solid, beat, the crest side as the significant side.

This polarity4, however, does not separate the opposites from each other. On the contrary, it unifies them, just like the head unifying the two hemispheres.

This unity doesn’t just apply to human beings, animals, and creatures. It underlies everything in our universe. Regardless, this is the entire game we are playing. In other words, the game that things and events are separated.

Space Whales In The Orbit

Sure, people are very different from, let us say, whales. However, they are not separate from each other. Our scientific research demonstrates this in the field of ecology.

When a biologist studies a specimen, they will eventually learn that this creature goes with a particular environment. They go together simultaneously.

You cannot find flowers without their insect equivalents, or vice versa, to use an analogy from Watts. They are one organism.

It is less apparent to us if we think an organism is simply a restricted mass contained within the epidermis.

When you see that every creature is a field of behaviour inseparable from its environment, it implies that there are no such things as separate events in this world.5

It is all one process pretending to be many. In this way, one cannot find whales in a world without people.

This is the way ecology perceives the world intellectually. It is not a domain where organisms are just part of the environment, but is a field of behaviour that is single or unified.

These whales can also be said to play a special game. A game called “hello, I’m a whale.” There are all kinds of organism-games that are happening everywhere. They’re pretending to be that thing.

A Game of Black and White

This pretending is an essential rule of the game. Masquerading, peek-a-boo, now you see it, now you don’t. It is another aspect of the same principle as the wave.

Only, the time it takes for us sometimes to arrive at the crest takes so long we feel that the crest is nowhere to be found. That there was no such thing as positive–that the darkness might actually win the game.

But that is the role of the black, to be in a position of almost conquering the white, even though it is actually the balance and harmony of the opposite forces playing off of each other endlessly.

Our digital computers base their calculations on this principle. The binary system of arithmetic, where every number can be represented by 1 or 0, was developed by Gottfried Leibniz.

You can find this concept in a more philosophical sense in the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, - I Ching - where you flip a 64-sided coin of black and white to help you make your decisions.

Even though there are 64 possibilities, they base themselves on the two opposites of Yin and Yang, black and white. Black is represented by a broken line, and white is represented by an unbroken line. But out of all those outcomes, there isn’t a single wrong one.

Many relatively modern leaders have been basing their political decisions on the coin tossing, in other words, a game. That makes one wonder, how serious are these people?

There is a saying that goes: life is not just black or white, it consists of many different shades of grey. But against some areas, grey seems dark, and against some, light.

So it always boils down to these two opposites. In fact, all information whatsoever is expressible in terms of black and white.

For example, every television broadcast gets sent to the screen as a stream of pulses. Putting those pulses on a magnetic tape, they become expressible as a yes or no. It is the same with our nervous system.

Whether the neurons carrying messages fire or not, the neuron registers either a yes or a no. It means that our perceptions consist of complicated arrangements of yeses and nos, in every conceivable way. But the thing to remember is the positive cannot exist without the negative.

The game that is most popular that people are playing, however, is they try to arrange the world and the problem of life in such a way as to have the white side win only and eliminate the negative completely. And such a problem is insoluble.

It is meaningless because the negative always comes with the positive, by the principle of polarity–it is a game rule you can’t beat.

And once one accepts that situation fully, it frees them from certain predicaments. And so the next thing to be taken up, are the rules of the game.

The Rules

The first rule of this game, is that it is not a game at all. We want to take it seriously. And indeed, people go to great lengths to do this, and it shows. The forgetfulness that it is a game, tends to result in two things generally.

One, we feel alienated from the natural universe, and two, we are afraid of the “other side”. Now, nobody has ever written down the rules of this game per se, so I might as well jump at the chance. As a disclaimer, nobody can actually write down the rules of fair play.

So instead of that, I have to make a kind of parody of it. Now, aside from the first rule, there are at least six others:

  1. The game can be seen or experienced as a game. But this usually requires a shift in conscious content.

  2. The game is fundamentally a form of “Hide and Seek”, or “Lost and Found” (an analogue akin to the concept of waves).

  3. The “unit” of awareness that specializes in self-observation of the game (human being), is not really a *subject* or a puppet of cosmic forces. Rather, its behaviour, will be to use Dewey’s word again, transactional. Whenever you move, the cosmos moves, and vice versa. And in this way, there is no controller of the game, the game is self-aware and self-sufficient.

  4. All social agreements, are considered the level or a measure of how real things feel in the game. See, if the game is lost and found, anything to do with the found side, has built within it, all the theories and ideas that have come from self-observation of the game. And so when we make agreements, we really “lock on” a particular idea, that we deem as real.

  5. Physical processes, are the “organized patterns that appear to us, giving the illusion that the game is ‘hard’.”

  6. What is the person? A specialized unit of awareness. An illusion of continuity. Everything in the universe is in flux, and falling apart, including you. You’re a temporary arrangement of these patterns, organized in a specific way. And once your pattern “scatters”, your energy will remain in some form yes, but nobody really can tell what happens to the person. I argue many times, that you simply have this life. So live it. But the joke is, that you are actually the entire game. That’s what the second rule really means. Only, you have to redefine what you mean by you.

So these then, are just some of the unwritten “rules” of the human game. Now, I differentiate it from the total game. Because the rules do not necessarily apply to existence outside the universe.

And while I don’t subscribe to the “many worlds theory”, I do not exclude the possibility of a level of being, outside the cosmos.

The first rule is too, a social agreement. In fact, all rules are simply a matter of agreement. But they do not devalue these social “binds” necessarily.

It is only saying, that if the game as such, is a form of play, a form of hide and seek, you have to wonder: What will we find in the end when we seek enough?

Role-Playing and Society

And so this is where we get to society and the myriad of games it offers. We tend to take our social roles with just enough sincerity to belong in the game and with just enough seriousness to keep ourselves in the game.

Take the situation of our educational system. People are making it a first-hand protocol after arriving in a new school to belong any role in the school setting as fast as possible.

But no one ever tells them about the rules of that particular game - it’s something they have to experience first-hand through other people telling them who they are in subtle ways.

Our parents, teachers, elders, and most importantly, peers tell who we are. It is one of the most destructive games we humans play on each other. And yet, from the standpoint of society, it is necessary.

This belonging and quest for a consistent identity might start early in childhood, but it persists our entire lives. We find new ways to keep ourselves in the rat race of necessities like the economy.

When you stop a person in the street and propose the question: has it not struck you how odd this 9 to 5 business is? Chances are they’ll say they’ve never really thought about it. And that frightens me.

People tend to do their thing without questioning the system that defines their behaviour for their entire lives. And if you introduce them to specific points of view, it begins to bug them.

In particular, if you make it apparent that their vocation in life is just a temporary role from which they check out at 65.

All this role-playing, hunting for pleasure and acceptance throughout life might get exhausting until people feel they no longer want to participate in the social game.

And our society hates nothing more than non-participants. “People will seek them out to belong in their desperate group of odd fellows.” Even our everyday speech reflects the world as a game.

When a person is good at hooking up with people, we call them a player. When we go hunting or fishing, we call the catch big game. We say someone is a sore loser or a bad sport.

We talk about good gamesmanship and are always trying to one-up either other people or the universe. This one-upmanship never ends.6

Winning and Losing

Now, one might think that winning and losing are essential aspects of the game. But that is an illusion. True, within the game on the human level, there might come times when we feel like we are doing one or the other.

Such as, we are winning or losing money, and that affects us very strongly on the psychological level. Because we often equate the loss of wealth directly with our status in life.

We also feel that we are winning when we accomplish something, and this can vary from minor accomplishments to more intense and grander achievements.

Likewise, we feel lost, or that we are losing often, when we get disappointed in life. Such as in relationships. Or it can be a financial loss, or losing in regards to items. But the biggest loss is of course when we lose a member of our family.

One certainly can think life in these black and white terms. But I say it is a very limited way of looking at things.

Because according to certain traditions such as Taoism, they say that once you win, that implies losing. And vice versa.

So, do not bet on the horse too much, because once you do, you might regret it deeply on an emotional level.

Life can also be seen as a gamble. Where we are dealt with certain cards, and we have to place our bets, even unwillingly sometimes.

The Reasons

Here are some of the reason why one could easily think that life is a game:

  1. Life has rules and objectives, just like a game does. We have rules such as laws, community set rules, and game rules within the game. The objectives can vary from walking 3 kilometres instead of 2, to eating less, or settings other similar goals.

  2. There are multiple paths to success in life like in games, and each person must determine their own strategy. Such as developing their own mental or physical faculties. Or it can be something meaningful like teaching, or learning equally. We never stop learning.

  3. Just like in a game, there are obstacles that must be overcome in order to succeed in life. We can see this in examples such as confronting someone we don’t like, or it can be a deadline that one has to make.

  4. Life can be unpredictable and full of surprises, just like in a game where you may encounter unexpected challenges. Surprises come in all forms, from weather pattern shifts to meeting a person you hadn’t seen in ages. Or it can be the media or entertainment we partcipate in.

  5. Some people approach life like a competition, striving to beat others and come out on top. This mentality however I do not always agree with, especially if it means undermining or hurting others for your own gain. It can be healthy too, like in friendly agreements.

  6. Just like in a game, there are consequences to every action and decision that we make in life. This might be more difficult to consider as a game rule. But it is a dynamic which is present, and some people might call it “karma”. I personally don’t see karma as a judiciary system that counts one’s failures.

  7. People often use different strategies or tactics to navigate life, just like in a game where you must make strategic decisions. This is I suppose more prevalent in the business world. So I don’t “strategize” that much myself.

  8. Life is full of choices, much like a game where you must choose the right path to take. Another difficult point. But it is that we have to choose very often, and that choice determines the course of our actions, and often our lives.

  9. People sometimes experience luck or chance events in life, just like in a game where you may draw a lucky card. Lucky-fucky I say. I’ve never been that lucky. But I recognize it as a phenomenon.

  10. In the end, the ultimate goal of life is to achieve fulfillment or happiness, just as winning the game is often the ultimate goal in a game. Yeah fucking right. I’m not Aristotle. I believe that once you think you got the “goodie”, you’re in for a bad surprise.

Life as a Video Game

Imagine that you were suddenly born inside a video game. And as you started you only had one life. And if you lost it it’s game over. But don’t worry, this is a long-ass game.

You start out as a baby obviously, and gradually as you gather resources such as food and beverages, your character begins to develop.

You gain new skills, points, and accolades gradually. And while this is going on, you come into contact with all kinds of wacky characters. Some of these characters become your friends in the game, and some of them enemies.

Every once in a while you need to go to save point such as a bed. And you rest over night and save the game. In the morning you’re usually greeted by a helping character who whips you up a boost giving meal.

When you turn more or less five years old, you enter into a level system in the game, which sets you up on the path of achievements. You enter into pre-school. And that’s great because after that the thing really starts up when you get into the first grade.

This is the first time in your life when you get to pick out a definite role to play. This is an RPG after all. You can pick out as the role of the school bully, the clown, the nerd, or the good person. The possibilities are practically endless!

There are certain rules that go largely unexamined. Where you figure yourself out gradually which role you belong to in the school setting.

But you know, you don’t have to stick to just single role. Play all of them once in a while!

When you get to the higher grades, you can start playing the role of the bad person just to mix things up. Get into bad habits, such as smoking or drinking. While in school property! Oh man, the teacher and the looks in their faces.

This can go on a while. When you get to university, you can be a little more serious, OR you can not give a shit and just party all day long. The option is yours. But if you do take the sincere scholarly route, you can graduate with, let’s say, a PhD in cognitive sciences!

Then you finally get out of this level system and join the economic rat-race. Now this is where the real fun begins. Because now, you can make the choice of doing something you really love. Only fools do something for a living they do not enjoy doing.

And so you do all the things that the game has to offer. You fornicate around, you go on all sorts of adventures, you travel, you eat all kinds of delicacies, and you develop your masterpiece on the side, the book that will prove where consciousness comes from.

Then, when you’ve amassed the good things in life, the time has come to pass on the torch. Maybe you got a nice house. Maybe you got married. Maybe you had kids on the way.

And then you retire and enjoy the fruits of your labour. You lived every moment of the game as it unfolded, never worrying for tomorrow, or regretting the past.

The game was perfect. Your game ends, and another one begins somewhere else. And the RPG continues. But all these roles you played, the spouse, the parent, the student, the idiot, the genius, were all just that, a role.

Underneath them there is the self, which plays all possible characters in the game. Because you are the Joker, the card that can be any card in the game.


There are a few ways one can check out from “the game”. The most obvious of these ways is in the process of becoming dead. But it is a serious offence to check out of your own free desire whenever you’ve had enough of the game.

Can people see the weirdness in this? It is against the law to commit suicide, but once you have committed suicide, there is no one to be held accountable–so what is the point in having such a rule?

The answer is that it is an indirect way to keep people in check, that is, to order society. But this is not the only way to check out of the game.

Another way is to become a monk and go on a spiritual retreat. It entirely gets people off the hook of participating in society, but the downside is you cannot call upon the services of said society to your aid any more, such as the police.

But usually, one that has in them the deep desire to abandon society, and study philosophical and spiritual matters, does not give a hoot about social services. He is an “outcast”.

The third way, and the one which I tend to lean towards, is by making a conscious choice of minimizing interaction with the system and not taking anything seriously in society.

That goes towards the social, educational, labour, monetary, religious, racial and otherwise. Nothing is ultimately serious. That will immediately make one an outcast in the term’s most basic understanding.

So one has to be subtle and hone their skills so as to not tread on any toes. But from the standpoint of this fool (me), everything in society is seen as a game–and when people start taking their games too seriously, the fool gets the giggles.

Not because he’s out to get them but to remind them that it will all fall apart eventually, despite how hard they persist. The basic principle however, makes sure it gets built back up again. And then it will fall apart. And so on it goes.

This Is Not Just a Game

However, even though our social institutions are games, that does not mean they are mere or just games. Even though Hamlet is a play, it is not a trivial entertainment venue. Same with concerts that play the music of Beethoven. Would people classify them as mere triviality? Of course not.

So there is a clear distinction between something profound in the nature of the cosmos as play or as a game and the games we make out to be in our every day lives. Clever people will exist on two levels simultaneously.

One where they get involved with the necessary things that life offers to get by. And the other where they can remind themselves quickly that whatever is going on is not taken ultimately in dead earnest because of its playful nature.

And we use the word game in various ways. To most people, it means something frivolous. But I mean to use it in a more profound sense.

A game is an agreed-upon event in which the participants are fully aware of it, only we have a certain kind of awareness which blocks seeing that it is a game, and we call that an Ego or conscious attention.

There are and have been people throughout history that have had glimpses into the fact that the game is a game. That they knew and sincerely felt it was all a fake.

This experience exists documented in several far eastern so-called religions dating back more than four millennia. I would label them as ways of life more than religions, but that is entirely my preference and besides the point.

There have been victims in great wars and times of extreme agony that have suddenly had the very compelling sensation that there isn’t a single grain of sand in the wrong place in this cosmos.

That everything was an incredible show. And that it was fundamentally harmonious.

But in many cases where the person thought they were dying, the potential explosion turned out to be a dud, and they survived the ordeal to tell the tale.

But as these things more often than not go, families or loved ones of those victims swept their experience under the carpet and said their brains were just hallucinating under extreme stress or something.

This experience can and will keep hitting people out of the blue. And at that moment, there is a definite and dangerous possibility that the person in this situation will get their wires crossed and go out of their mind. It is like getting 20 billion volts shot up through their electric hair dryers - their mind blows up and it will stay blown.

And that is why this potentiality happens in a specific state of affairs that everyone faces sooner or later out of fairness. Worry not. Just remember what a fantastic game it all is, and have some fun in the process. Have a ball}, as they say!


P.S. This is actually from the first iteration of my would’ve-been philosophical work, but it was discarded. However, I saw it as valuable enough to post it here for the amusement of people. As always, don’t take it too seriously.

  1. Incidentally, there is a notion that all information in mathematics can be expressed in terms of only black and white, an idea that comes from binary arithmetic. ↩︎

  2. Maya is the “Grand Illusion” or the world in Hinduism which is perceived and measured, created by Brahman or the ultimate reality. ↩︎

  3. This was noticed more or less in Gestalt psychology in the 20th century, which measured the “intensity” of conscious attention as it focused on different features in the environment. And they found out that we notice them in terms of contrast. ↩︎

  4. Alan Watts’s term for the opposing forces found throughout nature, or I would more accurately say our perception and sense-experiences when ewe study the properties of nature. ↩︎

  5. The concept of interdependence or “dependent origination” found in Buddhism, that describes the interrelated aspect of everything. ↩︎

  6. There’s a psychology paper written by a family therapist named Jay Haley, from Stanford University in the 1950s, which describes this phenomenon at an amazing length, albeit I have not been able to track it down. ↩︎