The Winner Takes Your Files: Lose/Lose

Take that C:Windows/program/indiegame/readme.text

I’ve been thinking about this game for the last couple of days. Which is, I suppose, the point. Lose/Lose is a basic shooting game… but: “Lose/Lose is a video-game with real life consequences. Each alien in the game is created based on a random file on the players computer. If the player kills the alien, the file it is based on is deleted. If the players ship is destroyed, the application itself is deleted”. Oh, the humanity. More of what I’m sure will be termed art-wank in comments thread on the page. What I’m thinking about isn’t actually the questions it’s posing, but how it could be to have twisted to actually have proper gameplay appeal. You’ll find thought quick thoughts plus footage of the game in action below…

Here’s the baby…

lose/lose from zach gage on Vimeo.


The effect of the game deleting your files when you actually succeed in playing it, bar to illustrate some pretty basic points – Killing Just Because You Can Isn’t Necessarily Right – doesn’t really do anything. You’ll notice a list of high scores on the site, and they’re mostly really low. People are not playing it for obvious reasons. But they are a bit – partially for exhibitionist reasons and partially for absolute ludicrous iron-manisms. Yeah, I don’t give a fuck enough to do this.

Iron-man-isms are one of those trends which are interesting. The industry talks about opening games up to more and more people, but there’s a niche who absolutely adores the brutalisation. You’d actually create a particularly nasty Iron-Man game by flipping the mechanism. As in, files are deleted by you losing. So playing isn’t actually about being just masochistically self-destructive – it’s a statement that you believe your skills are enough that you won’t lose any files. With an actually compelling game, I can see some players (i.e. Quinns) actually being attracted to that.

Of course, there’s another, much more populist approach to the game. Just connect it to your Recycle Trash Bin thing, and you run the game whenever you want to empty it. You blast through enemies, each tiny victory permanently deleting the file they represent, and you win the game when the Recycle Bin is clear. Just a way to enliven a normal workaday part of your PC-life. And that I think you’ll find a lot of people playing, for exactly that reason. And, to be honest, I suspect would be a far more interesting work of art than Lose/Lose – of how making things a game can defeat tedium and remix reality.

I’m a fan of this kind of using your PC’s files as part of the game. There’s a 90s shooter which Richard Cobbett told me about – and whose name will, I’m sure, be mentioned in the comments thread in seconds – which uses random picture files from your hard-drive as wall textures in one level. Which is a brilliant concept, if only for the mental image of playing a game in front of friends and suddenly finding themselves fighting through a mass of pornography. Oh noes!


  1. Ian says:

    I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.

  2. LewieP says:

    Having real world consequences for games is interesting.

    Gambling is, I suppose, one such example. I’ve played poker with the same group of people more than once. One time with not money, just counters, then with real money on the line.

    It does drastically change the game, how people play, and the emotional experiance of the players. One friend, for example, would be very reckless when it was just counters, and very conservative when they were playing for money.

    I’m not a fan of acheivements that much, but I am suprised there isn’t things like negative acheivements (or I guess “failings”), where you have a permanent record on your steam account for, say, dieing X number of times in a bit of Half Life 2.

    • PHeMoX says:

      “Having real world consequences for games is interesting.”

      No, it’s not interesting at all. Not these kind of consequences. It’s like those fools hooking games to electrocution devices so you can ‘feel pain’ when getting hurt in virtuality.

      It’s nuts and we all know it.

      Virtuality was never meant to have real life (negative) consequences.

    • Meat Circus says:

      That’s an excellent idea. I’m going to patent it and then sue your ass.

  3. Bjoern Roepstorff says:

    This is by far a new idea. There is a Knights of the Dinner Table strip where Brian introduces B.A. to his new computer game “Virtual Liabilities”. It’s a PVP fighting game where files are assigned to your hit locations and deleted as you take damage.

  4. mpk says:

    Does it perma-delete the files, or send them to teh recycling bin?

  5. Javier-de-Ass says:

    yeah no this isn’t interesting, just stupid.

  6. Tei says:

    This remind me that austing power gag where we follow the life of a minion. Poor “random minion” killed withouth a second think by our hero. A minion with cute childrens and a pretty wife.

    On the other part this is a game. Low scores you say? maybe this is my oportunity, I could run this thing inside a clone image of a VMWare windows, maybe with a perl script that restore the deleted files. Does this game start If you remove deletion rights for the current user for the executable?

    What If you play this game from a CD-ROM (or any other ROM system..) , will try to delete the CD-ROM files


  7. Nick says:

    The game Virus used stuff on your computer IIRC, also there was an odd asteroids control style game called Inner Space that was set inside your PC and used file names and things, it was quite fun.

    This game sounds a bit.. er.. well, pointless. As art or otherwise.

  8. CMaster says:

    There was an old top-down space shooter, great fun called “Inner Space” which was all about rescuing the icons on your computer from harmful viruses. Not that you actually had virus problems if you lost mind. I really liked the mix of challenges when you entered a level and the RPG-like systems it had going on.

    This game however sounds like it takes things a bit too far.

  9. Rinox says:

    As it is, this game sounds a little like playing Russian Roulette on your own. Which isn’t much fun, really.

    But if you could transplant the same system to a player vs. player game…now there’s some potential. I’m sure there are tons of players looking for that next thrill. Kinda like Diable hardcore mode, only way more hardcore.

  10. Richard says:

    The old 90s game was simply called Virus.

  11. jRides says:

    Surely I could just go torrent a better, mainstream game, then I’d no doubt pick up my very own virus along with it that does exactly the same thing – but with way better gameplay/graphics/story etc. Win/win.

  12. Cooper says:

    Like the tigsource post, it seems a little lazy not to point out that this is a Mac only program? It couldn’t fuck up your PC, even if you tried.

    In any case, I guess the point of the game (like much artwork) was to stir up discussion, rather than the objet d’art in and of itself, and so, well done Mr. art game maker man.

    In which case, my favourite comment, given the Real Life Consequences of the game has been from tigsource. LOSE/LOSE: REAL LIFE CONSEQUENCES! A LOSE/LOSE FAN FIC BY ATEAM

  13. James G says:

    A good few years ago I had a dream, in which I was playing a game, Zombies (ate my neighbours) if you want the details, and was doing particularly well. Then I got to a sudden crunch point, and came across one of the characters that had been mentioned in the manual, but doesn’t appear until late game. I ended up failing whatever task was set, and, as a result, the character threatened to randomly change all the level passwords on the cartridge, before killing me, thus ensuring a far greater failure than would be possible normally.

    Now, in the dream itself I was upset, as it meant that not only would my progress be lost, but also that of others in my family. In reality though, there is something interesting about the idea of failures that can also occur at the level of ‘metagaming.’ Obviously in this case, the outside implications were still confined to affecting the game itself.

    • Funky Badger says:

      They toyed with things like this in Metal Gear Solid, IIRC…

    • Pax says:

      “I’m going to torture you Snake, but don’t worry, you can push Select to give up. But if you die, there’s no continues this time, and don’t use auto-fire, or I’ll know…”

  14. Ben Abraham says:

    There was a game called “Operation: Inner Space” for Windows 3.1 that took your application Icons and… did something with them? The fiction was your PC was infected by a virus and you had to take your space-ship into the computer to rescue files and destroy the virus. Kind of a Tron rip off, but it was cool when I was 8 or so. Your ship controlled like an Asteroids clone.

  15. Nick says:

    So no one reads any other comments even when there are about 7, eh?

  16. Paul S. says:

    I loved Inner Space. Every year I check back to see if it’s free yet, but it never is.

  17. Nick says:

    I actually bought it after playing the shareware version, it arrived in a sort of cardboard folder with nice art on it. Sadly I have long since lost the disks =(

  18. mrrobsa says:

    I think this is awesome, if it had the ability to specify a folder it would make file deletion a blast! And as the KG says, a recycle bin version is a must. Anyone gonna take a hit for the team and try it out? I guess if you’d just done a fresh OS install you’d be fine….

  19. Gutter says:

    This game is like a museum that promise to kill one of your kids for every painting you look at.

    I’ve seen some argue that you didn’t have to shoot, so really it was your choice and that was the statement of the game, but the problem is that it is a game, it’s meant to be played. I wouldn’t go to that museum to ignore all the painting, so why would I play that game? I wouldn’t even call that place a museum, I’d call it a gas chamber, just like I call that game a virus.

    • unique_identifier says:

      i pretty much agree with the sentiment here – this software certainly isn’t a game. although “malware” is perhaps a better term than “virus”. design it, construct it, discuss it – sure – but release it? pretty irresponsible.

  20. Dracko says:

    lol going to download this onto the school computer that would “hilarious” XD

  21. TCM says:

    The game is not meant to be played by shooting.

    It’s meant to be played by dodging the enemies.


  22. Gutter says:

    @TCM : “The game is not meant to be played”

    You should have stopped there.

    • TCM says:

      And I did, on my first Tigsource post, but nobody seemed to care.

  23. Okami says:

    I think the game is a very clever commentary about our packrat mentality when it comes to hoarding files and programs on our hard disks. These days data storage is so ridiculously cheap, that we can afford to keep absolutely everything saved to our hard drives all the time.

    Think about all the useless data lying around on your hard disk. About all the countless little programs and games you downolad without thinking. Would you really miss them, if you started randomly deleting stuff? For how long could you play the game, how many enemies could you kill, before you actually deleted anything of worth?

    • 1stGear says:

      I think that would be true if the game focused on junk files. If the first ship I blow up is Windows.exe, that’s another matter.

  24. Tunips says:

    I am reminded – ever so faintly – of a book produced by a 19th century French absurdist. Its covers were made of coarse sandpaper. The book destroyed those next to it on the shelf. This game seems to have a kinship, in the sense of that “Don’t you dare appreciate me” school of art. It’s engagingly and provocatively reprehensible.
    That French chap also made a boardgame which played with battlefield lines of communication in a rather abstract manner. I don’t suppose anyone knows who he was?

    • Gutter says:

      Guy Debord

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      And he was 20th Century. Go Situationalisticism(tasm)!


    • Cooper says:

      This is why I love RPS. It’s not often you find comments threads on games with references to Situationist International.

      The game, by the way, is called Kreigspiel. You can find it to play here.

      The book is called Mémoires and I think it was Debord and another artist, not sure I remember the name. It’s a work of ‘psychogeography’ (Human Geographer by trade, in case you hadn’t guessed) and is mainly about the relation of urban space to the behaviour, feelings and emotions (realised consciously or not) of those in that space. Despite some problems with it (including an uncritical repetition of a masculinist conception of space as feminine in some bits of his work) it’s been fairly influential in left-field architectural, art and some geographic work.

  25. Caring Beet says:

    “Killing Just Because You Can Isn’t Necessarily Right” doesn’t really have much to do with actively deleting your own files. It seems more a commentary on escapism, and the interplay between the isolated mental space that many games depend on, and the context they exist in. It’s still not terribly articulate though.

    The idiotic whimsy of the concept is kind of arresting, but still the self importance of the game means that it is probably less enjoyable than any kindly photo-mashup-flythrough-porno-ohnoes.

  26. abecedarian says:

    Can I link it to all the SecuROM files?

  27. Dinger says:

    This discussion of player-supplied incidental content reminds me of a DigiPen student project FP-FS, which can be downloaded from DigiPen. Of course, the thing is buggy and never worked for me, but I believe they combined mp3 player and multimedia effects with a FPS where it designs the level based on your file system structure.ultimately, they make clever concept pieces, but can you really take it that far?

  28. Clovis says:

    I could see having fun with this on a fresh install of windows or something. You deal with the double challenge of the game itself, and then the possibility of randomly losing when the wrong file gets deleted. If you did that though, it would be helpful to see the filename so you could actively skip killing things that seem important. It’d be interesting to play a game and then see if some of the other installed programs still work.

    Hmm.. I actually have an otherwise useless computer laying around…

    • Clovis says:

      Oh, the other time would be if you are going to be doing a fresh install of Windows or something. After you backup all your data you could merrily go about destroying all your software. Some people actually do fresh installs every year.

  29. Axess Denyd says:

    Yes, Inner Space, fun. This game? Doesn’t look fun and seems a bad idea.

  30. AtkinsSJ says:

    Someone needs to make something like this as an anti-virus program. Usually, anti-virus stuff hogs your PC when you want to be gaming, so why not combine the two?

  31. Chris says:

    It’s sort of like the old TV show Reboot, in which games are represented as destructive purple cubes, and the user winning means many files and programs are destroyed.

    Actually I guess it’s almost exactly like that, with a different visual representation.

  32. phil says:

    I agree with AtkinsSJ, adapting this as a mod for something like ad-aware would be awesome.

    In the same vein of real life consequence for game failure, I vaguely remember a game manual (90’s RPG I believe) that recomended hitting yourself in the head with a hammer everytime you die in game, should you find the gam’s hard mode too easy.

    Then of course there was this; link to

  33. Nalano says:

    This is the sort of art-house game that should never have gone beyond the drawing table of whatever CS majors thought it up.

    “Let’s make a game where the enemies you’re shooting are actually random files on your computer! And let’s make it so that by shooting them you’re permanently deleting them!”

    “Yeah, let’s not.”

    • Gutter says:

      Thats the thing : I’m sure that this did happen, numerous time.

      I’ve seen people hail this has a genius idea, but the idea isn’t genius or unique, it’s just happen to be so ridiculous that everyone who though about doing it just dismissed it as crazy.

    • Clovis says:

      I once heard about this art critic being complained to about some piece of “found art”, with the old, “Pfff, that’s not art, I could do that!”

      The critic replied, “Yes, but you didn’t.”

  34. jankenbattle says:

    not so sure i think this is pointless art-wank or even that terrible an idea, at least it’s original?

    even my anti-game girlfriend loves the idea of the recycle-bin version.

    • Gutter says:

      It’s original because no one bothered doing something that useless before.

      Just like art made of dead babies would be original.

    • RobF says:

      Wot Gutter said. As long as I’ve been lurking around coding boards this comes up at least 30 times a year as a concept. No-one makes it because it’s actually shit.

  35. KilgoreTrout XL says:

    A post about this game on metafilter mentioned that it just rips off a feature that Windows 95 had perfected over a decade ago.

  36. FhnuZoag says:

    Can I make my ‘bah, been done’ statement yet?

    link to

    Well, okay, it’s not exactly the same, but…

    For this game…. it’d be super evil to have a multiplayer RTS version, where your units are your files, and their units are their files. (And I guess unit type is determined by file type.) So, be sure to protect your precious EXE and DLLs from their horde of porn and cache files…

    • Gutter says:

      That would actually be fun… A RTS that delete files, and give more importance to some files than other. So your barracks are made of system files, your HQ is Explorer.exe, etc.

      The winner is the first to render the other system useless.

      No faux-art statement, just controlled destruction.

    • solipsistnation says:

      Oops, that’ll teach me to not read comments before posting. 8)

  37. Okami says:

    Well, I guess my comment was a bit revealing about my own approach to data storage. It was, of course, also not meant to be taken very seriously. Also, not deleting stuff on your hard drive is hardly something I’d consider a failing.

  38. caesarbear says:

    Yeah the recycle-bin version is for girls. Real men demand this game be internet multiplayer!

  39. Xugu Madison says:

    If I wanted real life consequences, why would I be playing a game?

  40. Railick says:

    I could never bring myself to play virus when it came out because I knew I'd be playing it when it loaded up special folder opens while people are standing around. (you know what special folder I mean)

    On a related note one time my dad was running a file scan on our old computer right? Well it shows the file it is currently scanning and it was VERY Slow. I mean this thing took like 12 hours to run. So I walk in there after it has been running for a while and notice it is scanning my (special folder) of the day. It had hundreds of and hundreds of huge files in it (for that time any how) It scanned that folder for about 2 hours. 2 hours I had to do ANYTHING I could to distract my dad from going in to check on it :P In the future I choose to rename all my files diffrent things so if it happened again he wouldn't know files from older /temp named 1,2,3,4,5 ect where anything but general temp files ehehe

  41. LionsPhil says:

    So, it looks like a harmless game, but randomly deletes files.

    There’s a name for that kind of thing, and it ends in “ware” and starts with “mal”.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Malible swimware?

    • Clovis says:

      Except that it doesn’t look like a harmless game at all. It makes it clear at the beginning that it will be deleting your files.

  42. Bret says:

    You know, although I’d never play it, the RTS version appeals to me. It’s got a bit of the feel of X-Com or such in Ironman mode somehow.

  43. Starky says:

    This has to be the dumbest excuse for an idea I’ve ever heard, one that is utterly irresponsible at best and at worst purposefully malicious.
    Malware in the guide of a game and art as an excuse is still malware.

    It’s not original, it’s not clever, and it’s not art, it’s just moronic.

    I really do hope that all the Anti-virus vendors flag this game as harmful ASAP, or I can see it getting used as a practical joke against unsuspecting users… one that brings no end of headaches to people who work in tech support (a field I happily got out of to go to electrical engineering).

    It’s the game equivalent of releasing a movie that “every second you watch it, it permanently destroys a random pixel on your LCD TV”.
    As has been said many times if it was the recycle bin, that would be acceptable, or a designated folder at least, but any random file? That can potentially cause serious problems.
    I don’t care what kind of disclaimer the idiot designer put on it, I hope he gets sued – and thankfully any disclaimers that breech the law are void, as I suspect the disclaimer in this game will.

    The art argument is no excuse either, god how I hate the sheer idiocy of some corners of the art scene, the whole “if it evokes a resonance it’s art” opinion – To which my usual counter is something like “Well if I punch you in the face that would evoke a response, is my fist and your nose art?”.
    Though only once have I gone as far as actually hitting someone in the face to prove a point (he gave me permission the silly sod, with witnesses – broke his nose too), ah the fond year doing a 3D Design course when I thought it would be nice to be a digital animator.

    Few things in life annoy me as much as arty types, I’ve always been of the opinion that art should speak for itself, it shouldn’t need explanation – that the very act of an artistic work needing to be defined, or justified externally voids any artistic merit the work may hold.
    The kind of work that people just look at puzzled and confused until some arty type (worst of all when it’s the creator) explains the meaning of it, and then all those confused looks turn to nodding appreciation, like they got it right away, so afraid are they of not getting it, they fake it.

    Real art (and when some people say that they mean modern art, I don’t – modern art can be real also, but so incredibly fake also) should not need that kind of over the shoulder commentary “this piece represents…” rubbish.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “Real art (and when some people say that they mean modern art, I don’t – modern art can be real also, but so incredibly fake also) should not need that kind of over the shoulder commentary “this piece represents…” rubbish.”

      Well, no, and in a sense, this doesn’t either.

      In some cases it’s up to the viewer to interpret the painting/game, and what it means to them (i.e., Rothko), and in others the creator clearly intended a particular message to be prevalent (Picasso’s Guernica).

      They’re both perfectly valid. Art can’t be defined as simply as you are attempting to.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “To which my usual counter is something like “Well if I punch you in the face that would evoke a response, is my fist and your nose art?”.
      Though only once have I gone as far as actually hitting someone in the face to prove a point (he gave me permission the silly sod, with witnesses – broke his nose too)”

      Sorry for the double post, but yes, it would make a point.

      It would suggest that you’re an idiotic thug, and would explore how idiotic thugs such as yourself make up for their lack of eloquence with violence.

    • Okami says:

      Aaaawww… Someone needs a hug!


  44. Frenz0rz says:

    This reminds me of Inner S[ace. Ah, fun times a kid, one of my first PC games.

    link to

  45. Vinraith says:

    So it’s basically a video game virus. How odd.

    Kieron’s two variants are both significantly more interesting, of course. The iron man game would be absurdly risky, of course, but there’s certainly a contingent that would play it and brag about it.

    The recycling bin idea is silly, but marketable. You should patent that and sell it to Popcap, Kieron.

  46. FuxDat says:

    Why is this getting so much attention?

    Look, you’re a) either going to backup beforehand, b) run it on your break machine/test rig, c) read about others’ experience with it.

    Just like that mysterious “Natalie Portman Hot Nude pixxx!!!” attachment with the subject “I love you” you got in your email several years back.

    Like others mentioned, it’s just viral (the irony) malware dressed up as high brow philosophical new games journalist wank crap.

  47. A-Scale says:

    The only way this would be fun is if you could quickly install/run from disk on a store computer, and play the game until it deleted a core system file, resulting in a blue screen. Other than that, it’s an awful idea. It’s like playing a game that requires you to shit all over your own home.

  48. Empyreal says:

    I think the real problem here is that the game does not generate real life consequences at all. The game IS the real life consequence. In real life, you tend to get a feedback system, where positive actions are rewarded and negative actions are punished. Here, the positive action is not playing, simply because the negative action MUST be negative since you are punished for it. The point of a negative feedback system is to make you better at whatever the system is geared towards. For example, in a game where you’re hooked up to electrodes, you’d get better simply because you don’t want to get shocked, rather than personally wanting to get better. Here, the game uses a negative feedback system to teach you not to play the game. In fact, it’s so effective that the game is almost universally reviled, from what I’ve seen in the comments, by people who have not even experienced the system, simply because of the concept of feedback system that has been presented. So, in a way, it is accomplishing exactly what it set out to do: Teach you not to ever want to play the game.

    If it were to want you to ACTUALLY play the game, it would reward you for doing something in it, but it has no actual positive feedback for doing anything in the game.

  49. Hulk Hogan says:

    Why do indie games like this try so hard to be art? Do their programmers think the only way yo validate their hobby is to make stuff like this?


    You only end up coming off as one of those pretentous art students who smears a Barbie Doll in feces and calls it art because it “garners a reaction*” (under that criteria trolling is art because it gets a reaction and makes people think)

    *from the ignorant masses who watch their tvs read their newpapers and play their halos

    • Empyreal says:

      “Why do indie games like this try so hard to be art? Do their programmers think the only way yo validate their hobby is to make stuff like this?


      Yeah, the way he phrases is on his site is somewhat pretentious. If it were to be a “psychological experiment” or somesuch to see how people respond to it, then I wouldn’t complain, but having it be art on how “digital files are as important as physical possessions” and “the concept of winning” is crap, it’s a game that deletes files in such a way that it’s not really much of a game. The EFFECTS of that are what you can study, it’s not an art piece persay.

    • RobF says:

      Sadly, they do genuinely think they’re revolutionary art terrorists pushing the boundaries of how we see games.

      I prescribe a course of The Manual, twice a day, every day to help cure them.

  50. Hulk Hogan says:

    to validate their hobby*