People play games (although, they do not know of the games they play, as the “games” are social conditioning, the “programs”, “records”, “accords”, “efforts”, “will”, or what have you of the social ego). They play the game of opposites. Whatever request made, whatever you say, the game is for them to oppose. To, effectively, demand the rules of the game be played as written, and then when that is done, to change the rules. The only inflexible rule of the game is that to oppose. And this, by society (the amalgamation of the game players, the collective board of monopoly) is called “Socializing.” Socializing is a game of who can oppose whom best or longest. Or who bores first. It is a game of put-down. Put you down to raise the esteem of the ego. “If I can joke you long enough, I have the better of you.” The winner gets the reward of the last laugh. This is the game of Social Competition.
The moment you enter into social communication, it becomes compulsory to play the game. Unless you call the game. You have to acknowledge it, thereby, making no one the winner (or loser), you see. You remove the game. You take the fun out of it, as you will be accused. Or you take the meaning out of life. These statements only reinforce the idea of the game. They keep the melodrama of the game in play; the theatre never closes. People (the ego) become dreadfully dependent that the theatre never closes and so can become quite angry at this, to call the game, to remove winner and loser, because the objective of the game is to win, and the ego wants very badly to win. The ego must win; else, it has no purpose (this removal of meaning). It does not know what to do. The ego has to be told, in some way, that it is a winner and that it is better than another is, or it whines.
No ego wants to be a loser. Who roots for the loser? Who takes the side of the loser? The winner has all the power, all the glory, all the authority in the all-seeing eyes of society. That is why the Milgram Experiments are so terrifying, why the Stanford Prison Experiment so violent, why war so economically sound and profitable, why abuse so utterly normal as to be unworthy of discussion. That is the ego spreading its wings, and shaking off the worry of care or concern for another (in any real sense, that is, outside of the game), that is by choice, rather than force or compulsion or pressure. Yes, the Social Game presses you. That is why often those who appear “de-pressed” [without pressure] have no ego. When the ego is absent, or it loses too much for too long, you become what society calls depressed. You have stopped playing the social game. You have stopped trying to one-up your opponent (or oppose; see how similar the word? How the game and its rules are contained in the word? The thing? This is what Watts refers to as a Linguistic Problem).
Society calls it mental illnesses when you do not have an ego or do not play the game or play your own game with your own rules, independent of society (which really means you ignore social conditioning), which society will call “unpredictable” or “chaotic” or “dis-order”; which are all more words for “Social Ineptitude.” More of their games. Dis-order, because it is automatically assumed that the game is both real (concrete, actual) and order (therefore, correct and right). You see, more opposites. The Social Game, it seems almost inescapable, does it not? As it is contained in the language, wrapped up in it, and interwoven. Language can determine culture by social conditioning, which determines the social identity, the ego. The ‘you’ in society. A linguistic problem.
If you can perceive without language, without words (in other words—no pun intended—you do not think in words, you are without that little voice in your head) then you are called mentally ill, mentally challenged, retarded, stupid, and other such opposites of the otherwise well and right and ordered (by rules or laws, if you will) social game; i.e., society, or in the rules of the game “making a living”, life. Society constructs an ego and then tells you to make a living at it. “Here have a go at this.” If you cannot, society tells you “Failure” in neon letters and you think you feel guilt. But really it is just the game and the ego and not you. It is just the results of that linguistic problem. You have to be wary of the linguistic problem, because it will convict you a player, and if you do not play, it will SENTENCE you. You have to laugh at it. Treat it like a child’s game of freeze tag. Because it is absurd to take it seriously, to hold it sincere. Society, if it were a person, a thing, knows it is a game. That is why it never loses.