Over the past several weeks I have sent a lot of interesting people who work in the games industry an email containing the following scenario:
“You enter a room. The door locks behind you. From a door opposite another you enters. This other you is a perfectly identical clone, created in the exact instant you entered the room, but as every second ticks by they are creating their own distinct personhood. The doors will unlock in 90 minutes. Nobody will ever know what happens in the room. What do you do? (assume the materials you need for whatever you want to do are in the room). Please show your working, if able.”
Many people have not responded, no doubt because they are still grappling with the question, and not because this is a bizarre thing to get from a journalist – especially if you don’t have an established relationship with them. But a lot of your favourite developers and voice actors and generally lovely people did respond, with very thoughtful answers. I sent it to so many people that I’m still getting responses now, so this article is probably going to be updated every so often.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the answers we have so far. Who would share lukewarm food with themselves? Who would engineer an elaborate heist of the Crown Jewels? Who would cut their own ears off? Never let it be said that RPS doesn’t bring you hard hitting journalism in 2018.
Currently lead writer and story editor on Neo Cab
I would love to have a clone, and so I assume my clone would also be delighted by me…for the first few days, at least. We would both have a very deep love for The Prestige. Most of my ideas are for what I would do with my twin after we left the room, which is basically using a double as a social experiment for me/us to make life decisions. So in that 90 minutes I think I would just…have a conversation with her? We’d establish a plan for our new life together, and flip coins to see who has which responsibilities. As I write that, I’m realizing that I’d essentially enter into a marriage with my clone, although some of those duties would definitely include who has to go on first dates. Is that creepy? Yes, probably. But I have a clone wife now, so the world’s judgment matters not a fig to me. To us.
This is a pretty interesting situation. If we are both clones of each other, we should be mirror images. That is, if I lift my arm, the clone should lift theirs in the exact same manner.
One of the first things on my mind would be just how good of a clone is this? The first thing would be to test the fidelity of the clone, and see how long it will take for the clone to diverge. This would be the most interesting if the viewpoint was similar for both versions of me, meaning that the sensory input is exactly the same. Then it would presumably be harder for us to diverge.
Let’s say that is the case. The first thing I would test would be simple movements. I would move my hands, arms and so forth in erratic ways, and see if my clone follows along. Since I would assume the clone is meant to be identical, it might not be that simple to test the accuracy. The thing is that it wouldn’t really be a mirror image of me, but myself turned 180 degrees – which means I would not be able to just hold out a hand and see how well my clone follows the movements, as his hand wouldn’t be easily tracked like a mirror image would. In any case, I think I would be able to notice any irregularities, and if I didn’t, I could assume the clone is quite good.
When it comes to the movement test, it could be that the clone is simply copying me in a very fast manner. I would then have to do more complex tests. I wouldn’t simply turn my back to the clone and write down some thoughts on a piece of paper. Instead I would dig out some ancient memory, like the colour of the bowl I used to play with when I was 5 years old. Then I would turn around and show it to the clone. If the clone got it right, it would be fairly creepy.
We can go even further to see just how much the clone is like me. After the previous test, I would write down something lengthier. Something like a really complex situation, that really challenges the mind. Like what I would do if I was locked up with my clone. I wouldn’t tell the clone that we were doing this, as a good clone would already be thinking the same thing. Once we wrote our thoughts, we would turn around and compare notes. If they were both identical, then it would be really creepy. This clone would pretty much be me.
So, now I got a clone of myself! That’s pretty awesome, and we would like to leave together (since if we are thinking the same thing, he would also think I’m awesome and that he wants to leave with me). However we now run into a problem: we are unable to exit through the same door. If I choose to exit through the door that is behind my clone, my clone would be thinking the same thing, and we would be heading for different doors. That would be damn annoying! Here we are, two fairly intelligent creatures, and yet we can’t leave together!
Let’s say there was a die in the middle of the room. We would finally have a random factor, which would give us a way to escape together. Except that picking up the die wouldn’t be all that easy. As I would try to grab the die, my clone would do the same. Our hands would collide and we wouldn’t be able to pick it. Instead I would have to poke one side of it with my finger, and my clone would replicate the movements. This way we would be able to lift the die together, and throw it into the air. However, the side on which it would land would not matter. I could only mentally call the doors “the door behind myself” and “the door behind my clone”. My clone would do the same, with opposite meanings. We would still be unable to pick the same door, and would be stuck.
If we both had a die of our own, we could throw dice until we got different values, then use that to pick the door to exit through. However, if the two halves of the room were identical enough, and if my clone was an exact copy of me, then the values would never diverge. Practically though, the two halves cannot be 100% identical. The air on my clone’s side would be ever so slightly different, meaning that if we let enough time pass, we would be able to build up enough chaotic randomness in the environment to get different values on our dice. Then we could finally break the symmetry and decide which door to leave through. This would also mean that our sensory input would be different, and me and my clone would be bound to drift apart eventually. So if we wanted to become famous mind reading magicians, we would have to act fairly quickly.
Now what if the room was made to be identical on both sides, though? Well, then we would be fucked. I could never exit together with my clone. The only way would be to have a pair of some sort of quantum devices, like something to measure radioactive decay. That should make our outcomes different. But what if even quantum states were the same? Well, then there would be no way around it. We would only be able to be together in this one room. The only direction we would agree on would be up and down, so unless we were climbing eternal ladders, our movements would make us drift apart. Or if the environment was shaped like a ring, me and my clone could meet at two different spots by going left or right and so on. But basically, it is pretty hard to stay together with your identical clone, especially each was in an identical environment.
And that sums up the meeting between me and myself!
Writer and producer at Choice Provisions, known for those cool Bit.Trip games
Even with the fantastical nature of the situation, there’s only one way I can imagine myself responding to it. Before doing anything, however, I would ask this clone if we could each take a moment to gather ourselves. Reacting immediately feels like it could result in poor decision making!
After we’d both calmed down, I’d focus my efforts on developing a friendship with this other me. After all, who would be a better friend than another instance of yourself? Even with the ongoing divergence in personhood occurring, I would find it hard to imagine myself not attempting to befriend this new me. Unless, of course, their growing sense of autonomy caused them to become a violent person! But I feel confident the surreal nature of the situation would unify us to the point of friendship.
I love one-on-one conversations, so I’d most likely want to spend our 90 minutes together talking about whatever came up. I have to imagine we’d primarily talk about the situation we were in, but hopefully the conversation would lead to other topics as well.
I understand I could leave in 90 minutes and nobody would know what happened, but my answer remains just as boring: I would just want to talk!
Director at Arkane Austin who does that good, good Dishonored shit
There are more exciting ideas that spring to mind, but here’s something that feels right and meaningful. No one knows you, really. No one has been in your head, no one seen your most cherished (or most humbling) memories, from your perspective. Except this conceptual doppelganger. So an opportunity too precious to pass up would be a long conversation, where we both explain how we remember key experiences and how they hit us, emotionally. With no secrets between us and no judgement, this seems like it would be a profound moment.
Afterward, we’d conspire briefly, then agree on a time-share plan where we both take turns living ‘my’ life, while the other vacations on a beach. We’d probably also make out.
Developer of The Castle Doctrine and, most recently, One Hour One Life
The problem here is that I can’t necessarily tell which one I am. Assuming that they are a true clone down to the subatomic-particle level, they remember walking into the room from the outside, just like I do. They remember eating what I ate for breakfast today. They remember what I did yesterday, and think that they did it.
So I think that I’m the original, but so do they. From the moment of cloning onward, I can no longer tell that I’m the original. Furthermore, whatever my plan is going to be, their plan is going to be the same. I can imagine a bizarre, exact reverse-mirror-image routine unfurling for quite a long time until chaotic micro forces (air currents, etc.) cause gradual divergence in our behavior. I raise and eyebrow just at the same moment that they raise their eyebrow. I raise my left hand just as they raise their left hand. I reach for the gun, and so do they…
What is actually going to happen depends on a lot of details that aren’t spelled out. Is the room symmetrical? Are the available materials symmetrical?
If the room is asymmetrical, I might know that I am the original. I also might be able to use the asymmetry to my advantage and break out if the identical behavior stalemate more quickly. Even if I did, I’d think that murder or any other extreme measure would be unethical. So then I’d be trying somehow to prove that I was the original before the 90 minutes was up, especially to the outside world. Let there be only one titanium BB in the room, and have it be closest to my side of the room, and I would grab it and swallow it first. But what is the consequence for the known clone in the outside world? If any harm would come to them, I think the situation would get pretty desperate on the clone’s part. Maybe swallowing the BB would not be wise, because the clone would then be doing their best to get it back out of me – the fast way.
If the room was symmetrical, I have no idea what would happen. I’d imagine that we’d both go insane before the 90 minutes was up.
The people who brought you The Red Strings Club, and who put way more effort into this than they needed to
First of all, congratulations because you just sent me the weirdest request I’ve ever got from a journalist. We read it last night and it triggered a two hours-long discussion over dinner and a short trip. Spoiler: Ends badly.
Allow me to run you through what happened last night.
We imagined the first interactions would be almost impossible because if we have the same exact mind in the same exact context, we’d try to say the same stuff at the same time. Resulting in an awkward exchange of “what,” “how,” “do you,” “you first…” etc. As entropy would make our personhoods diverge, hopefully, even though we’d probably be thinking the same stuff, we’d manage to have one of us say it out loud: “THE POSSIBILITIES!” either we or the copies would scream. All the stuff we want to do but we don’t have the time or the energy to do are now feasible! Maybe we can form two teams and each one work on a different idea for Deconstructeam. Or maybe the clones can do the stuff we always wanted to make that aren’t related to video games: writing a novel, producing a new album, an illustration book… so many possibilities!
At that point, we couldn’t stand to stay in the realm of the hypothesis and decided to go and clone ourselves so we could give you the best answer possible.
[photo above: Deconstructeam cloning themselves, July 16th 2018]
Since we already ran this scenario before the procedure. We instructed ourselves to give the turn to speak to whoever won a coin toss, so the clones would come out with that mindset. But we didn’t predict that we’d just make the situation more awkward by making the clashing words now be “Tails,” “Heads,” “You first,” “Go ahead,” etc. So we had to sit it out anyway until entropy made us diverge enough. Once able to communicate, we agreed to leave the lab and walk back home. We couldn’t contain the excitement and started brainstorming all the stuff we would be able to do. However, amidst the excitement, we all began to notice an unsettling feeling in the rear of our heads. Should we choose to travel, who goes and who stays home? Should we choose to write a novel or produce a music album, who works on it and who keeps working on Deconstructeam’s games? And which option is better in any case? Would we be releasing our creations under the same name? Could we feel proud or even feel authorship of something we didn’t work on? How would working on different projects will make us diverge and how will all that affect our identity? We kept all those questions to ourselves but at the same time, we were all well aware that this was on everyone’s head.
We got home. The living room felt minuscule. All the existential questions didn’t let us foresee more immediate ones. How were we supposed to seat? We stood in silence for some time, looking at each other, trying to hide the tension we all knew we were feeling. Who owns the sofa spot? Do we have to split our income? Can we provide for six of us? Do we have to provide for six of us? Should the clones rent a new apartment? We all opened the mouth at the same time and then froze, our eyes wider and wider as every millisecond melted. Do we have to announce that now we are six instead of three? How will our families and friends deal with this? Will the media and the government leave us alone? Isn’t cloning supposed to be banned? Oh, shit. We’ve gone too far. We have to undo this. We have to…
“Kill the clones,” we all said at the same time, leading us to a bitter realization. Who were the clones? We all had memories of cloning ourselves. Moreover, can we even kill? We couldn’t kill a stranger so, someone with our own face and memories? Death was not a possibility. What then? Exile. Some of us would have to leave and find a new life, identity, and aesthetics, in any way we could; supported at first by Deconstructeam’s revenue, and then cut off ties completely. A shabby way to pay for our sins but the only one we were able to face. How to decide who leaves and who stays? 1 vs 1, fox only, no items, final destination.
So here I am, writing this e-mail as the last thing I’ll do as Jordi de Paco, about to leave home and find a new true calling, maybe as a writer, I don’t know. Paula and Marina’s clones already left, we’re not supposed to know where each one of us went or ever interact with each other since being together would draw attention toward our sin.
So, to the question of how would we react to the scenario you proposed, knowing that what happened in the magic cloning room would stay in the room…
Jan Willem Nijman
Co-founder of the studio Vlambeer, and made the v. cool Minit
Oh no, clones, I hate those! Then I realized it’s not about video games. Excuse the below rambling:
So honestly, I’m pretty conflicted. I don’t always have a lot of social energy, and am not really into the idea of suddenly being locked in a room with anyone for 90 minutes. Since we already know eachother, we can quickly move to taking getting out of this fucked up situation. Whatever we need is there: so step one, unlock the door, then get some good free food and drinks before to take advantage of the situation. Once we’re done eating we’ll go see if we can get some kind of compensation for being locked up for 90 minutes. Or maybe that can already be in the room since whatever we need will be there, even better.
As there Can Be Only One, I think we’ll have to do some rock paper scissors, figure out which one of us has to disappear for life and get a new identity. Not sure if that’d work as we’re clones, we might just keep making the same moves. If that’s the case we can just flip a coin.
Co-founder of inkle and director of 80 Days
That is an odd question, and a rather hard one.
I’m not sure I do have an answer really but having thought about it a bit I think we’d probably end up sitting side by side reminiscing about old relationships and not really doing anything much. If that got boring we’d play Hurgen-Jurgen. (Players take it in turns to say Hurgen; the first to say Jurgen wins.)
After the 90 minutes were up we’d go home together and share out the childcare, taking it in turns to work on Heaven’s Vault. I could use assistance from someone who really knows the system.
If money got tight – which it might, since we’d need to both eat but inkle’s not recruiting right now – we might eventually do bank robberies: one could conspicuously be somewhere else while the other did the crime, and even if they figured that out they’d never be able to prosecute either of us beyond reasonable doubt since how would they know which of us did what? The perfect crime.
Formerly of Irrational Games and 2K Marin, and now working on The Blackout Club
The instant the door locked, having endured a lifetime of interest in the supernatural but not even the barest hint of an actual experience – I would probably say something like “finally! you’re late.” … mostly to hide my fear. I would then waste an OBSCENE amount of time testing the perfection of the clone – first thing that comes to mind is quizzing it on my most secret password by offering the first character in the sequence, then it would offer one, and so on. I’d look for trigger memories to see if there was any kind of delay, by asking something like “That old field next to the Tumwater house – we destroyed it” to see if it then offered the fact that we ruined it for the sake of a “sick” RC Car track.
Presumably my clone would be just as obsessive, so it would counter-quiz, eating up more valuable time. It’s important to note that a clone of me would be able to cast reasonable doubt about whether I was the clone, with implanted memories – because if this one can answer my questions, then it has implanted memories. My skin would be crawling by this point – because how can you actually prove it wrong? Aaand yeah, with all the time we had wasted, there’d be like 20 minutes left.
Then we’d get down to business testing the room for hidden catches. The fact that we’re being locked inside doesn’t speak well of the people who devised this little meeting – who’s to say the clone gets to live afterwards? So the best chance of us both getting out alive is to treat it like an escape room.
Except that I’m crap at them, and my clone would be too. With 3 minutes to go, whatever likely fate at the end of the 90 bearing down on us, our eyes’d meet, and … we’d probably just wrestle.
Writer on such games as Frog Fractions 2 and the wonderful Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
Are we separate people after we leave the room too or does this happen in a pocket dimension with no past and no future beyond this experience?
[I confirm it is the latter]
Ok, this is a pretty easy question, then! I’ve always been very jealous of people who have productive creative partnerships. I know people who work with their significant other, people who work with their siblings, even some people who work closely with their twin. The practical benefit of having a close creative partner who is on the same wavelength as you and wants to make the things you want to make is outrageous.
The people I know who are in close creative partnerships are able to take on more freelance work than me, take more risks, have more interesting and inspirational creative experiences, and simply get their names on more projects than me. It’s wild how much a creative partner helps you! I have been so jealous of this for so long and I am sure that my clone would agree with me about this and want the same thing from me.
I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about clones and what I would do if I had a clone of myself and how we would share our lives and world between us. When I was in college, the very question you asked us was actually a common topic among my friends. Some of my friends said they would kill the clone; others said they would bone the clone. We talked about it constantly. Years ago I actually started writing a screenplay about the problem of living in a world alongside your clone, and then stopped because it was too ridiculous. (You, however, have proved me wrong. If Rock Paper Shotgun is putting a clone scenario on its front page, then the world must hunger for clone stories.) This led to me developing a set of principles I and my clone would live by. Presumably, my clone has done the same thing and will have the same expectations as I do.
The principle I hold sacred about interacting with my clone and is that we must both make the same sacrifices or we will be jealous of one another. Anyone would be. This is a universal principle, I am sure, and it could help all people and their clones. If there is something you cannot share, you must both abandon it. Resenting your clone is a terrible path. It combines hate with self-loathing in ways you have never thought possible. Now that I have a clone, we must both change our lives in massive ways.
So here’s what we will do:
- Agree instantly to begin working in a creative partnership in games and entertainment.
- Agree instantly to both quit our job (I presume we have the same job because we are a precise clone. In order for this sacrifice to be fair, we must both make it.)
- We cannot both be Laura Michet. We have to both surrender that identity because it is unfair for one of us to have it and the other to surrender her self to the other. We must therefore both pick a new:
- Nickname, which we will go by in public
- Hairstyle, so we can be told apart easily
- Dress style, for similar reasons
- Catchphrase, to distinguish one from the other in conversation
- Once we’ve established a new identity for each of us, we have to draw up a constitution of our clone relationship. We are doing this to make sure that the expectations are clearly stated but also because I and my clone love writing up sets of rules and then following them.
- We must also draw up a separate document: the creative projects we will tackle together. We should list 30 to 40 different pet ideas from our shared history and rank them on two metrics
- Our desire to do the project
- Whether the project could make us enough money to fuel a clone creative partner lifestyle
Once we’ve done this, 90 minutes are up and the foundational documents of our clone relationship have been created. From then on, it is gravy. We will be a more efficient working duo than the other creative partnerships I have seen because we are both incredibly jealous of these creative partnerships and desperate to make the most of our own.
I am not sure what thing we would make first because I have not had the opportunity to discuss it with my clone.
Geralt of Rivia (most famously)
Cheesy answer probably, but…
I would open myself completely to the new me and share everything I feel most important to living a good life. I would also open myself to the possibility that the new me might have things to teach the old me… like how to look at the world from a completely blank page and rediscover the wonder of learning basic things for the first time again. And I would accept him unconditionally.
Lead designer at Arkane, on neato things like Dishonored and Prey
First response: THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.
Upon reflection: Sit in contemplation about the shared humanity of everyone. God is trying to teach me something here – that we are all one and all connected. That person isn’t really me, but I’m supposed to see myself in them, themselves in me. Then I would embrace me as an affirmation of self-acceptance.
AKA Hidetaka Suehiro, known for Deadly Premonition and currently making a game where you turn into a cat at night
First, I’ll cut off my right or left earlobe so that we can tell each other apart. I’ll cut off my own so that we won’t end up killing each other. Next, I’ll check to see whether or not we share memories. If we do, I’ll suggest splitting our workload between us, half and half.
But if the other me is a perfect clone, he’ll probably only want to do the fun work, so we’ll either have to create a list of all the work we have to do and split it up, or take turns resting for a month and working for a month. If he has the same intelligence level and personality as me, I’m sure we’ll end up fighting no matter what we decide, but if the clone ends up developing his own unique personality, I’m sure it’ll be easy to convince him. I’ll make sure to get the upper hand no matter what it takes.
After all, this situation states that HE is the “clone.” This means he either wants to turn into me, or secure some sort of normal life for himself. I’ll just find a way to convince him by giving him what he wants. It’s super easy. Like taking candy from a baby.
If that doesn’t work, we’ll decide it using dice, or some sort of contest.
Regardless of whatever method we choose, though, we’ll also need to solve the problem of our income getting halved. Since we’ll be sharing the work, our profit will naturally be halved in relation to that.
At that point, we’ll probably take a selfie together, upload it to Instagram with hash tags like #doppelganger and #humanclone and let it spread around the world.
Then, after becoming famous, we’ll do TV interviews, publish books (ghostwritten, of course), do speeches at events, become the inspiration for a movie, donate our cells to research institutions for high prices, and make a ton of money. That will allow my clone to become a proper citizen and secure a normal life, so he probably won’t want to kill me anymore.
There’s one last problem, though. How should we split up our current wealth and family-related things?
He may be my clone, but if we share memories, then he may possess love for my family as well. He also may be attached to my beloved car.
When it’s all said and done, we’ll probably end up killing each other in a bloody battle over who gets the right to keep the cats. So I’ll cut both our ears off, that way whoever survives in the end will get to go on being the true SWERY and keep all the property.
And so I lived happily ever after, creating video games in peace with my family, my beloved car, and my cats.
P.S. Without ears I won’t be able to wear glasses, so I’ll have to get Lasik surgery.
Voice actor who you know as Tiny Tina, Aloy and Chloe Price, amongst others
I have to assume some amount of good will on the part of my clone (even though my immediate reaction was mild terror) for this scenario, so assuming that’s kosher: given that the clone is developing its own personhood, we could effectively function in the world as identical twins. So I would offer that as a way for us to co-exist. As long as she agrees to not try to kill me and take over my life, we could just tell people we were separated at birth. And I guess we’d spend the 90 minutes getting to know each other and figuring out our story. As far as what’s in the room… A different outfit for her that fits her new persona? And some chocolate and chamomile tea for my nerves?
Head of Image & Form Games, who do SteamWorld Dig and that
Regarding your scenario, it’s pretty obvious what I’d do:
1. As the minutes go by I’d keep verifying that the other me is maintaining a healthy sense of excellent humor. I’ll dish out an overdose of dad jokes and questionable one-liners at my constant break-neck (or induce-suicide) pace, and will push the big red lemme-out-of-here-NOW-this-clone-is-no-fun-anymore button the instant my clone isn’t shaking from laughter. If my clone doesn’t enjoy my jokes, it’s clearly deteriorated beyond recognition and trustworthiness.
2. While I tell the clone jokes and watch it cry hard enough with laughter, we’ll play chess the entire time (as chess is the only really necessary game in the world; all subsequent games are, as you know, either poor chess ripoffs or the work of people with too much time on their hands):
Does it beat me? Time to decommission the clone: again, lemme out. The clone is absolutely useless and probably very dangerous.
Does it lose? It’s a keeper, and we’ll stay on for at least another 90 minutes. What a brilliant clone, and what bright plans I have for it. <3
[20 minutes later] And damn, I forgot to ask more about the conditions. How much will the clone change? Will it like to do dishes? Start cooking perhaps? So many uses. I feel I’m already missing my clone. Please bring it back.
Co-creator of angry space beetle music game Thumper
I can’t bring myself to confront the deep ethical questions of this scenario, so I’ll do the most obvious thing and play rock paper and scissors with my clone until when (or if?) every game stops ending in a draw. At that point we’ll no longer be clones, but our own men and long lost twin brothers. Since you say we can have whatever we want, we’ll celebrate by feasting on the finest wines and foods while watching the 1991 film Double Impact.
Co-founder of Rebellion and fan of medieval things in general
I’d want to observe myself riding in real time. I’d also probably practise sparring with myself from horseback as getting qualified melee partners who can ride well is always difficult. At the same time we’d have several surreal conversations about identity and what it means to now be two identical but now differing as time passes entitles. We’d make plans for afterwards and work out how to both build positively from this odd situation.
Writer on games you love like The Witcher and AC: Origins, and won a Writers Guild Award for Horizon Zero Dawn
Start planning some fun Parent Trap scenarios :)
Previously of Fulbright, but most recently on Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
What an interesting and unexpected scenario! Here’s my answer:
I sit down with the clone, and a list of every big branching choice I made in my life. We pore over our bucket list, and talk about hopes and dreams and regrets. We look at our favorite countries, people, and pastimes. At the end, we shake hands and go our separate ways, to each tackle some piece of this. And we plan to return here to this room in a year, and talk to the next pair of clones about all the new dreams we’ve come up with in the interim.
Makes cool and usually NSFW games about sex and being gay
To stay “on-brand”, I thought, what if I tried to have sex with my clone? It’s not masturbation. I’d know exactly what I like and how I like it… but if I had to articulate intimacy, I would have to point to food — the boring conversations that partners have about what to eat for dinner, negotiating, trying to order different things at restaurants… so I guess the thing I’d actually do with my clone is to eat our most favorite food that others would find utterly disgusting, but with no shame or hesitation. In particular, we like lukewarm food best… but I shall say no more.
Notable loss to Valve, currently doing something mysterious at Bossa Studios, and evidently the sworn enemy of John Walker
As the door closes I curse about how the last thing I want to do as a writer is thought experiments about writing. I’ve been asked what game would a writer like – the answer is – one where there is no writing. Past that probably one where I punch John Walker, repeatedly. Crap, that isn’t the question you asked. Still…
[Moments later] Wait – time to still edit?
I just realized that would mean John would be in the room right? Is that what you are proposing?
If yes, let me change that, I don’t want want to sit in a room with John for 90 minutes even if he is whimpering because of my bruising punches. Because they are bruising, I am a really good puncher.
So I’ll go back to my first answer that I am not answering this question.
Design director at Cavalier Game Studios, wot did The Sexy Brutale
I would rush towards my doppelganger immediately with panic in my eyes, grab him by the arm and say “thank God you’re awake!” I would then turn the next 90 minutes into a kind of extended tutorial section, slowly but surely convincing him that he is England’s greatest spy and the amnesia he is feeling is a result of a recent assassination attempt by double-agents hidden within our own government. I would explain to my other self that I am merely a manufactured decoy, there to distract the enemy and our own side for long enough to allow him to successfully disarm the bomb hidden in the Crown Jewels.
I’d then go home, make some tea, put on Sky News and see how far I get.
RPS guides writer and fan of Christopher Nolan
So if you’ve ever seen the best of Christopher Nolan’s films, you’ll probably guess where I’m headed with my line of thinking. For those who haven’t seen The Prestige, feel free to watch it, be amazed, then come back for how I’d do it differently.
Upon emerging from the 90 minute locked room scenario, I would set up a magic show. It would involve two upstanding doors on a stage and a rubber ball. The illusion would be to bounce the ball between the two doorways, closing the door behind me while my clone opens his door and retrieves the ball. We’d keep the same appearance and even take it in turns to lap up the spotlight at the end of the performance.
In order to keep things seperate outside of the act though, we’d have a few tells that only one or two close friends would know, so that they can tell which person is which, such as a small mark on our hands. This mark is created during the 90 minute scenario so nobody knows but us. So far, so just like the movie.
So how would we do it differently? Well we wouldn’t accidentally kill the wife of anyone who looks like Hugh Jackman, introduce resentment within him, and force him down the road to our eventual downfall with our trick being exposed. Still, we can always have some other kind of teleportation trick up our sleeve.
RPS staff writer with nice hair
Living together sounds like a nightmare and murder’s off the table, so instead we’d have to sit each other down and decide who gets to stay in touch with our friends, family and pets. One of us might suggest that instead of a Matt heading out to start a new life in Canada we could team up for a hilarious double act, but the other would point out that society just isn’t ready.
We’d try rock paper scissors so we could both get a kick out of futilely attempting to outthink each other, then draw straws. I’d suggest that whoever leaves still gets to make a call or two at Christmas, and my clone would agree. We’d use the remaining time to take turns looking at our bums.
Senior editor and one of RPS’s original founders(!)
I’m not exactly someone who enjoys his own company as it is, so the idea of hanging out with another me doesn’t appeal at all. I can only imagine our both sitting there becoming increasingly infuriated with what we like least about ourselves until it spirals into a miserable row.
Then as I think about that, I realise it gets far worse. I’d start to get jealously protective over my own life. My son! My wife! This new guy is going to come into existence with the same depth of love for my family as I have, and they didn’t just get cloned. To tell him, a man who is consumed by the all-powerful and unstoppable biological love for a child, that he doesn’t get to come home to my family is horrendous. But I don’t want to share them! Least of all with me! Let alone how much they wouldn’t want another one of me, and all the life-ruining weirdness that would accompany it.
What the hell do I do? Either of me? How do we handle this? I’m not about to have a major personality transplant and become capable of murder or anything other hyperbolic reaction to the thought experiment. (I think it absolutely is murder the moment the clone begins to have unique experiences, and coming into existence to discover himself in the room would certainly qualify for that.)
So I realise, were this to happen, my life would become far, far worse, and I’d struggle with having to share everything I love with the last person I’d ever want to hang out with. So all in all, I’m glad this is a hypothetical.
RPS deputy editor and regrettably responsible for what just happened
Graham was like, ‘Alice, we need to do some kind of big feature!’ and then I emailed a lot of talented people to ask them a silly question about clones. I think many of them assumed that I was asking it as a serious and philosophical thought experiment. This is not an unfair assumption. In reality I was merely disguising my true agenda as a serious and philosophical thought experiment, like a terrible hot dog smothered in expensive mustard.
Almost ten years ago I read a post on Cracked (back when Cracked was, I dunno, still a legit thing?) about what you would do if you were locked in a room with a clone of yourself. The piece has not aged well. But it has stayed with me. The writer, Daniel O’Brien, posits that the only real options when locked in a room with a clone are to fight, or to fuck (or possibly both). I disagree. I think, unless you’re asexual, there is only one option. And you all know which one it is.
There are obviously issues around having sex with yourself. If you’re shy, for example, there would be several wasted minutes where you were both shy at each other, before you realised that being shy in front of yourself makes no sense. If you’re either sexually dominant or submissive, there would be some serious negotiations (though if you’re switch you’d presumably have a great time). I’m not saying you wouldn’t have to think about it. I’m saying, if you were really honest with yourself, you know what conclusion you’d come to.
The answers in this list are all fantastic, although I’m a bit disappointed nobody so far has agreed with me about having sex with yourself outright – though some flirted with it… But the answers have tremendous value anyway! Because the real reason I like asking questions like this is because people aren’t expecting it and usually come up with something interesting. And then you learn something nice about them. Maybe which movie is their go-to, or that they have strange eating habits, or that they like jewel heists, or which bits of their life are too important to share. The terrible hot dog was human connection all along. Because now you know all these nice things too.