Friday, March 6, 2009


A game suspiciously identical to The Game was invented in 1976 in the Horse and Groom in Kings Street in Cambridge one evening at the regular weekly meeting of the Cambridge University Science Fiction Society (CUSFS). Richard Pinch knew John Conway, the well-known father of "combinatorial game theory" - and the conversation moved on from John Conway, to game theory, and then to von Neumann's definition of what made a game, which was something like:

* The people playing the game must know they are playing it;
* The rules must be known by everyone playing the game;
* There must be an agreed method for defining who has won.

So everyone tried to think of things we thought of as games that did not meet all these criteria. After abandoning the idea of games with random rules and games that had no clear winner, the idea developed of a game in which you didn't know you were competing in until you weren't.

The aim was to avoid thinking about a particular thing - Finchley Central was seen as something that one would not normally think about, and was slightly comical, and so became the thing not to think about. On thinking about it, you had lost, were out of the game, and would indicate this by sticking your arm in the air. All the other players (generally a group of fellow CUSFS people who were present, aware of the existence of the game, and were awake/sentient) then had to avoid thinking about why someone had just stuck their arm in the air - the game generally was over in a minute or so and a surprised victor crowned - to nobody else's surprise.