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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Game Recognize Game

On game

It was in my youth that I first heard the phrase “game recognize game,” alluding to the notion of person X (player) identifying similar behavior in person Y (also a player). An urban colloquialism, “game” refers to characteristics or attributes used to acquire or win a person’s affection.

For instance, a man seeking romantic attention from a woman of interest is said to be involved in a “game” or contest for her affection. Therefore, when person X observes person Y exhibiting similar behavior as person X, person X may say, “Game recognize game,” in order to acknowledge the observation.

Noteworthy, the catchphrase doesn’t always relate to romantic or intimate interests. It can be used to communicate a warning, express apprehension, or announce the perception of mischievousness.

At times, the expression is meant to convey respect. Suppose person X witnesses person Y scamming a local retailer by purchasing an item at one register, transporting the product to a vehicle parked outside, reentering the facility through a different door, and using the same receipt to walk out of the store with a second item—known as a “two for one.”

Person X may have just arrived from another store, wherein he committed the same crime, and he smiles as person Y exits the store, expressing, “Game recognize game!” The remark carries a message of mutual respect.

At other times, the comment is used to declare disagreement. Moments such as these are generally accompanied by person X specifying why person Y’s game is unfamiliar.

In an animated series called The Boondocks, character Riley Freeman expresses displeasure with his granddad’s treatment of the elderly man’s romantic interest—ultimately as Riley pretends not to recognize his grandfather, because the granddad’s game is unrecognizable to Riley.

In a condensed video clip and when expressing a perceived disparity in treatment between the woman and the granddad’s family members, Riley states:

What part of the game is that? You takin’ her to Red Lobster with the cheddar biscuits! The fam ain’t eatin’ cheddar biscuits, but this random broad is eatin’ cheddar biscuits! Game recognize game, granddad. Game recognize game, and you lookin’ kinda’ unfamiliar right now! I…I can’t…where’s granddad? Can I help you, sir?

In his song “Game Recognize Game,” rapper Twista critiques the pimp game as another artist sings the chorus, “That’s the way the game go, this shit done changed. Niggas done switched roles.” I’ll address role-switching in a bit.

On game theory

Regarding my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I find it a worthwhile endeavor to have a cursory understanding about game theory, which one source describes as:

[A] branch of applied mathematics that provides tools for analyzing situations in which parties, called players, make decisions that are interdependent. This interdependence causes each player to consider the other player’s possible decisions, or strategies, in formulating strategy.

Awareness of game theory can help person X to understand how his behavior may be perceived by person Y. I say “perceived,” because rather than an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection, REBT maintains that there is a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection in regards to behavior.

Using the ABC Model, person X performs an Action, person Y perceives or forms a Belief about it, and because of person Y’s perception or belief, she experiences the Consequence of anger, disgust, and outrage.

It isn’t person X’s behavior (Action) that results in person Y’s response (Consequence), forming an A-C connection. Rather, what person Y tells herself (Belief) is what causes her unpleasant response (Consequence), forming a B-C connection.

Regarding game theory, one source states, “Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interactions among rational agents.” Suppose person X isn’t dealing with a rational individual when interacting with person Y.

Perhaps a concrete example will better demonstrate how I apply game theory to my practice of REBT, which uses rational thinking in regards to irrational beliefs. I’ll use an illustrative ABC scenario with person X represented by “Ryan” and person Y represented by “Karen.”

Action – Perceivably annoyed by his belief about ever-changing social norms related to arbitrary markers of identity, Ryan begins trolling people. His deliberate misuse of their ideological positions, as a means to highlight the absurdity of arguments from Karen and people like her, is meant to make a point. It is highly probable that Ryan foresees pushback to his behavior, recognizing that the interdependence on societal functioning requires civility, though he carries out his apparent taunting as a means to mock rigid demands being placed on people within the United States (U.S.).

Belief – Observing Ryan’s behavior, Karen believes, “This is an outrage! No one should be mocked for living their truth! People like Ryan ought to be ashamed for the way they act. I can’t stand to see trolls commit microaggressions, so I must do something to stop him!”

Consequence – Due to her inflexible and unhelpful Belief about Ryan’s behavior (Action), Karen inadvertently fulfills the goal of Ryan’s trolling effort by becoming angry, disgusted, and outraged. She feels her heartrate accelerating, sweat begins to bead on her forehead, her shoulders become tight, and her breathing becomes shallow. Karen then goes online to call for Ryan’s cancellation, as well as issuing him death threats.

Karen played into Ryan’s evident game by allowing her Belief to cause a Consequence—which is the very aim of trolling effort. In essence, Karen played herself.

Describing the intricacy of gameplay related to the Ryan and Karen example, one source states:

How can ignorant players learn to play equilibria if sophisticated players don’t show them, because the sophisticated are not incentivized to play equilibrium strategies until the ignorant have learned? The crucial answer in the case of applications of game theory to interactions among people is that young people are socialized by growing up in networks of institutions, including cultural norms. Most complex games that people play are already in progress among people who were socialized before them—that is, have learned game structures and equilibria.

How could Karen—ignorant to the apparent trolling strategy used by Ryan—play the game in a sophisticated fashion when the institutions with which she’s familiar maintain different rules than those used by Ryan? She’s at an obvious disadvantage.

The complexity of Ryan’s game, which is already in progress even if Karen is ignorant of this fact, is something for which Karen isn’t prepared. Therefore, when Ryan uses the language of identity to turn the proverbial chessboard play in his favor, Karen is merely a pawn in his game.

On role-switching

Recently, Delaware County Councilman Ryan Webb purportedly announced on social media that he now identifies as a woman of color and a lesbian, despite being a white man who is apparently straight. One source captured the following alleged FaceBook content:

For a number of years, sociopolitical members broadly aligned with leftwing politics in the U.S. have transitioned from advocating equality, tolerance, and acceptance to demanding equity, expressing intolerance of differing views, and seeking dominance over ideological perspectives.

Some people see this as a game of sorts. Perhaps Ryan does, as well.

A separate source reports, “Delaware County Councilman Ryan Webb announced he is now identifying as a Native American, given he purports to have select Cherokee ancestors on both sides of his family. He also declared he is identifying as a woman – and a lesbian because he remains married to his female wife.”

In a blogpost entitled Oki-woke, Pinoke, I carefully outlined the foreseeable problems with diversity, equity, inclusivity, and accessibility (DEIA). In graduate school for social work, I was taught how this activistic game is played.

In a separate blog entry entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief, I highlighted trans-specific DEIA issues and how these matters weren’t based in rationality. One supposes Ryan understands the meaning of content I covered in those posts, as it appears he’s chosen to role-switch accordingly.

One many further speculate that by playing the game of those who irrationally maintain that a thought, belief, emotion, bodily sensation, or colloquial misuse of the term “feeling” can somehow alter objective truth and reality, Ryan appears to switch his role as a matter of highlighting the absurdity of such belief.

Though some may conclude that it is mean, immoral, or harmful to value logic and reason over appeasement of a person’s irrational beliefs, I reject the premise related to the accusation:

Premise 1: All nice people support DEIA initiatives.

Premise 2: Deric doesn’t support DEIA initiatives.

Conclusion: Therefore, Deric isn’t a nice person.

Furthermore, I dismiss the premise related to a person being able to objectively function as that which one may subjectively “feel”:

Premise 1: People who feel like a unicorn are actually unicorns.

Premise 2: Karen feels like a unicorn.

Conclusion: Thus, Karen is an actual unicorn.

It would seem as though Ryan’s use of role-switching of this sort, even if merely to prove a point and he presumably isn’t expressing authenticity related to his conviction, has caught his ideological opponents in a bit of a bind. Here’s how the logic unfolds:

Premise 1: Anyone who claims to be a transgender individual actually is what they profess to be.

Premise 2: Ryan claims to be a transgender individual.

Conclusion: Accordingly, Ryan actually is what he professes to be.

If the Karens of the world choose to function as gatekeepers—those who take part in the activity of controlling and limiting general access to something—then the major premise (Premise 1) is invalid to begin with. Can “anyone” be transgender, or only a select number of exalted ones?

The game Ryan perceivably plays has exposed a double bind—a situation in which a person is confronted with two irreconcilable demands or a choice between two undesirable courses of action:

Either anyone who claims to be as they “feel” they are actually is what they profess to be or the concept of role-switching (e.g., transitioning from one gender to another) is reserved for some people and not others.

Who gets to decide who is or isn’t being authentic? If bigotry is what DEIA advocates are supposedly fighting, then how is intolerance of ideas from others (e.g., Ryan) not an exercise in bigotry?

It would appear as though role-switching—presumably for ideological trollery—has revealed bigotry. As such, game recognize game!


Twista’s chorus for “Game Recognize Game” states, “That’s the way the game go, this shit done changed. Niggas done switched roles.” It would appear as though Ryan’s role-switching has changed the sociopolitical game.

Rather than the Karens of the world making use of helpful techniques such as the ABC Model listed herein, which could allow them to play the game in a rational manner, one source reports Ryan has received “calls for him to resign after he also reportedly received death threats.”

It isn’t the Action of Ryan allegedly pretending to be of a different gender and sexual orientation that leads to the Consequence of outrage and calls to violence. In this regard, the A-C connection is as real as Karen believing she’s a unicorn, thus becoming a mythological horned creature.

Instead, what a person Believes about Ryan’s behavior is what causes the Consequence of unhelpful, unhealthy, and unproductive reactions, as the B-C connection could use some ‘D’ in its life—disputation.

Would you like some ‘D’ in your life? I may be able to show you how B.D.E. could better serve you than allowing your beliefs about the trolling behavior of another person to wreck your game.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

**Hollings Therapy, LLC and Deric Hollings do not support or encourage the act of shoplifting, larceny, the unlawful acquisition of property, or sex trafficking**


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