Only a Game
is a non-fiction role-playing game, played in text and pictures over the
internet by no more than about a hundred players. Its Games Master (GM) is
Chris Bateman, who designed some of the more trivial mechanics. However, much
of the game mechanics were designed by an unknown entity or process known
variously as God, the Universe, Fate, Time, Chance and a number of other names.
In this role-playing game, or RPG, players take the roles of people who have fallen by chance into the reality (or mind, or sometimes language game), of Chris Bateman. The GM describes aspects of this reality to the players, who respond in a number of different ways. Most common is to say and do nothing at all. However, some players go and talk about the latest events in the game to other people. A few respond, directly or indirectly, to the GM. It is these responses, by and large, that drive forward what can be considered the narrative of the game (although it is, always remember, a game of non-fiction). There are occasional bouts of time travel, as parts of the reality exposed at an earlier point in time are brought up again by fresh comments.
The play is focused upon games and game
design, philosophy of language, philosophy of science and philosophy of
religion, although squirrels and nonsense also occur. The landscape of the
reality the game is set in (Chris Bateman’s mind) is complex and changeable,
but a few things are always the same: he never means to cause offence, he
always believes that diversity is essential, especially diversity of thought
and belief, and he is both pro-science and pro-religion. A large metaphysical
wall has been built between these two regions in the reality, and while players
are free to cross between them, a certain amount of resistance will occur when
Unlike more commonly encountered realities, the reality used in this game is not always a tunnel and the play may flip from one reality to another, apparently at random. At one moment, players may find themselves in a grounded scientific debate with no recourse to metaphysics, in another, they may find themselves in a part of the reality that is dictated by Christian metaphysics (or Sufi, or Hindu, or Discordian, or…) and experiencing what that reality feels like. This causes some turbulence, but adds to the ilinx of the ride.
There is only one rule, which is play friendly. Even this rule is occasionally broken, bent, twisted, nudged slightly, folded, spindled or mutilated, but usually everything runs smoothly. As long as there has been no intent to offend, everything usually works out.
Politeness is requested, but since standards of politeness vary wildly from culture to culture, and from individual to individual, a certain latitude must be allowed.
Most players enter the game as themselves, but a few adopt a persona to play with. Character development is random, but players have some control as to how their character will change as the game progresses. Players are encouraged to attach their character sheet below, using whatever mechanics they wish to invent.
Occasionally, one of the plays will result in some of the players experiencing an intense discomfort or frustration, often manifesting as anger. In the worst instances of this bug, (often referred to as cognitive dissonance), the flow of the game may be disrupted. This is a known bug, resulting from design flaws in the firmware of the organisms used to play the game. An upgrade has been requested, but is not expected before the end of the game.
If you find yourself experiencing cognitive
dissonance, take three short breaths and three long ones, step away from the
game for a while, and come back to it later if you feel like it.
As with all Chris Bateman games, the
Universal Disclaimer applies.
We hope you enjoy Only a Game, and look forward to playing with your reality soon!
The opening image is a recent map of the game’s progress thus far, generated using a rather cool tool I learned about from Corvus that maps websites. Please feel free to attach your character sheet (using any system of mechanics you like, real or imagined!) or post rules queries below. Thanks for playing!