The retroviral meme is a close relative of the better known viral meme, an idea which spreads itself through a population by being either irritatingly catchy or otherwise memorable. Most advertising jingles and slogans are viral memes, as is the oft-quoted MacDonalds coffee story. Other good examples might be Santa Claus wearing red and white (a trend started by the Coca Cola company; it's their corporate colour scheme) and soy. Most urban legends also fall into this category. A retroviral meme spreads itself in a perverse and unlikely manner; by encouraging people NOT to pass it on so strongly that they cannot help but to do so. For example, "The first rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! etc.

'The Game' may be the one of the first and only examples of a retroviral meme seen in the wild, and has so far enjoyed unreasonable success. The Game originated as far as anyone can tell in mid-2002, at the University of Kent at Canterbury, in the United Kingdom. It was to become an unwilling stain upon the consciousness of most regular posters on the University newsgroups, specifically ukc.misc. The Game has since spread (I am informed) to several other universities and colleges in Britain and the US, as people moved away and carried the infection with them.

Like all viral memes, The Game propagates from person to person either through malicious intent or naive enthusiasm. The Game enters the host in the friendly guise of simple, wholesome fun, betraying little of the blackened, churning nightmare that lies within. Once past the subconscious bullshit filters, it buries serpentine tendrils deep into the conscious mind and memory centres, never to be fully erased.

The Game is very simple indeed; the entire point of The Game is to forget all about The Game. If at any point you remember (either through outside intervention or random brain-farting) that The Game exists, you have just lost The Game. Should you ever lose The Game, you must declare to those around you that you have just lost The Game, and explain what exactly you mean by that should they inquire.

Whilst this sounds like a damn fool way to spread an idea, it has proved a most insidious and evasive memory to erase. Concentrating on forgetting something (still, paradoxically, most people's immediate reaction) only causes the host to remember it even more. This ensures continued survival of the meme for long periods of time, even when in a 'dormant' state whilst stored in long-term memory. The meme can then suddenly burst out at a random time later, allowing infection of yet more hosts. This is a particularly effective against mobile groups like University students, as it allows sufficient time for a host to move to a new group of people thus avoiding viral saturation (boredom).

The retroviral meme possesses several obvious advantages and disadvantages compared to regular viral memes. Disadvantages include the necessity for a direct and aggressive medium through which to spread, such as the internet or televisual media. More passive media such as newspapers and magazines simply lack the 'personal touch' to properly incubate the meme. A willing host group is also necessary, as communications apathy can kill almost any good idea. Advantages are subtle, but definitely evident. Viral memes have a habit of burning themselves out very quickly in today's neon-drenched information-rich environment; how many times do you hear people say 'if I see that advert one more time I'm gonna smash my fist through the goddamn TV'. Little memorable ditties of little substance are commonplace, as such people get bored of them easily. The retroviral meme evades this by being a slow burner, spreading slowly by being simply not interesting enough to hit the mass media before foisting itself onto a new group of innocent hosts.

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