The Game (Professionals trope)

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The Game is a trope where Bodie's exposure to male sex during his days as a mercenary in Africa centered on "The Game" - a no holds barred physical combat that mercenaries would engage with one another to relieve boredom and sexual tension. The winner would "take all" (be allowed to rape the loser). These early sexual experiences set a pattern in Bodie's life which later flows down to his relationship with Doyle decades later, most famously in the very early and controversial story, Consequences.

Why This Trope?

Some Pros fans ask themselves why this trope was popular in their fandom. One response:

Sure, The Game is fantasy; all this stuff is fantasy. If we were to eschew fantasy in favor of hard realism, do you realize what the first casualties would be? Not the sex scenes, necessarily, (though we'd probably lose the best ones!) but the "pub scenes"... Want to know the sure-fire, dead-giveaway sign that a story is veering into fantasy? Quotation marks. The sad fact is, if you exclude sports and politics (and if only we could!), real men in real life do not Talk to Each Other. That's why they have wars. That's why they make 'G' movies with 17-minute car chases, and 'X' movies with 2-page scripts. And it's probably one of the basic reasons we invented fandom in the first place. [1]

Fiction Excerpts

From the story Consequences, the story in which it was originally used:
Oh, no. You don't get away with this so easily. It was his first time and he doesn't understand the Game--didn't have any idea of what was expected of him. How could he? He'd done his living in the civilised jungles of London. Didn't let that stop you, though, did you? They didn't call you the stallion for nothing, out there in those jungles. Fuck anything that moves. And Doyle's tight assed resistance had given you one of your best times for a long while. In fact, that's the only way you can make it with a man--using sex not as an act of pleasure, but of domination. Sure, you won the Game nine times out of ten, you made damn sure of that. But what of the tenth time, when you lost? Didn't like it so much then, did you?
Excerpt from the story Of Tethered Goats and Tigers:
He'd learned to play the game along with the rest, losing some, winning most because he'd hated the consequences of losing, and no one was exempt. The one man who never lost the game subsequently taught him that there was another aspect to it, that sexual satisfaction was not dependent on winning the power struggle and finding release in raping the loser. The victor could give pleasure as well as take it; the vanquished did not always have to endure pain and humiliation. It was not a lesson he had learned easily. The defeats had been bad enough; being forced to enjoy the inevitable result offended him nearly as much as the rapes at first. But being a healthy young man with very little moral compunction, he had no trouble taking both sets of circumstances in his stride, especially since his officer's interest protected him to a great extent from the violence of the game.

Fan Comments

[1991]:

On the fannish convention of "The Game"— I agree, it's a bizarre concept. I have a hard time seeing why any highly trained specialist would let himself be treated like that, especially given the whole "Pros from Dover" attitude necessary for a great consultant. Alyx explained to me that not everyone is a specialist, and that mercenaries don't have a union. Given those constraints, I can buy some of those genre stories (particularly Meg Lewtan's Out of the Jungle), but I usually find it hard to suspend my disbelief. [2]

[1992]:

...does anybody know what fan writer originated The Game? The concept of this whimsical past-time is so widely used and so deeply embedded in the Pros genre that some people believe it's canon, but somebody, somewhere, must have come up with it first. [3]

[1996]:

The Game: Seems like every 3rd story I encountered during my initial Pros initiation had this in it. Not sure who invented it - was it "Consequences" that got it going? In any case, I dislike it a lot, first because I hate rape stories, and second because once the first few stories had been done, everything after that came across to me as sheer laziness. Sort of Instant Angst - one teaspoon Africa, one teaspoon mercs, add one secondhand idea called "The Game" and stir. Boring. I'd rather see something a bit more original about Bodie's background. Fortunately, in the past two years or so of reading, I haven't run into The Game much. Hope that means it's died out. [4]

[2015]:

I wonder what happened to The Game too. I thought it was hgdoghouse possible without endless exposition. And you only have to mention it for the tension to ratchet up. [5]

Notable Stories

  • Of Tethered Goats and Tigers
  • Consequences
  • Out of the Jungle
  • Five And A Half Months by Laine Stone. One reviewer wrote: "Bodie resigns unexpectedly and disappears back into the jungles of Africa. A furious Doyle gets a window of 6 months from Cowley in which to find him....I love this one, especially for the humorous way it deals with some fannish cliches, such as The Game. And I rather enjoy a take-charge Doyle."[6]


References

  1. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #13 (1991)
  2. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #12 (1991)
  3. from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #13 (1992)
  4. a comment by Alexfandra on Virgule-L, June 28, 1996, quoted with permission
  5. The Good Old Days...I've been wondering...
  6. Madrigal's FanFiction Recs.