What is a game and what is fair?

Imagine you are standing waiting for a bus, or waiting for your spouse to show up, or just enjoying yourself browsing in store windows.  Suddenly a total stranger punches you in the face, then  flees.  You are left on the ground, injured, confused, probably unconscious.  This is called The Knock Out Game.

It is a not “game.”

Dictionaries define “game” as a competition with rules, played by individuals or by teams.  A game provides a diversion, entertainment, a winner.  A game may be a sport that demonstrates strength, skill, strategy, physical prowess.  Some games are intellectual such as chess or bridge.  Some games require special equipment.  There are board games, card games, guessing games, and video games where one can compete against one’s self in an effort to improve.  Scores are kept to demonstrate personal progress or the winner.

Games have rules.

Opponents are evenly matched.

Games require and enforce fair play.

Punching someone who has not agreed to fight, who can’t fight back, who is smaller, weaker, younger or older is not fair.  Even young children have a sense of fair play, and will call out a cheater.

Sometimes, the word “game” refers to prey that is hunted and killed.  Is that the point of this recent phenomenon? 

Teens enjoy competition.  One favorite story in 9th grade literature books is The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell, first published in Colliers in 1924.  David Selznick made it into a movie in 1932.   In this thriller, the dinner guest is shocked to find out he is the prey.  The story is a man vs. man plot. The guest is given a chance to elude the predator by using his wits and his physical abilities.

Another story teens enjoy is “Leiningen vs. the Ants.”  This thriller pits  man vs. nature. The man must use his wits to outsmart ants that are eating everything in their path.  Another thriller is Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” A solitary man has only three matches and he is stranded in the freezing Yukon.  All of these competitions allow time to think, flee, struggle.  The tension is the wait to see who wins.

The Knock Out Game totally changes the idea of “game” as a competition. It does include “game” in the sense of “prey.”  However, the “game” has not consented to “play.”  In fact the “game” is a victim.  There is no competition between individuals or teams.  There is no sense of an even matchup of rivals, either physically or intellectually.   The only “rule” is to knock out the victim. The “hunter” is simply cruel, not clever.  He is a sociopath.

Rules are now being imposed as the Knock Out Game is now considered a Hate Crime.  The perpetrators may be surprised to experience the “rules” inside a prison, imposed and enforced by fellow sociopaths.