“Fuck the future. We live in present time.” – Papa Joe Block, main character in ‘The Gamesman’
“The Game is merely a stimulacrum, a metaphor for life; if you fail here you fail outside.” (p. 16)
“the Games are our safety valve. Without belief in them as a means out of the trap of their lives, social tension and psychic pressures in the populace would build to a point where the entire system would implode.” (p. 49)
“Outside of the Games, existence is perceived only in dull flashes and glimpses of light…only the Games have existence…nothing outside of them matters at all.” (p. 51)
Multiple ironies exist in the details of Malzberg’s story. One is that everyone in the entire population is given until the age of 25 to decide whether to commit suicide without any interference or penalty for doing so. (unless they live thru the attempt) The “Games” are widely believed to be fair but seem to be rigged so that no one ever wins. One possible penalty for losing is death. So is this just another form of suicide? Everyone involved, from the administrators down to the players are part of a closed community once they decide to participate. The second irony is realized late in the story when it is revealed that another completely self-contained segment of the population does exist (are there others?) and these two groups look down their noses at each other for the way they have chosen to live. Each group is on its own Möbius strip treadmill thru life.