The Games We Play (not to be confused with the otherThe Games We Play) is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is MagicFan Fic written by AbsoluteAnonymous.There's been another sighting of the mysterious Mare Do Well…but this time, all of Rainbow Dash's friends plead ignorance, insisting that they've put aside their costumes for good. Rainbow Dash is determined to uncover the masked mare's true identity before she's humiliated yet again, but this time around, the vigilante seems especially interested in her as well. Will Rainbow Dash be able to solve the mystery before the culprit takes the hoax too far? Or is she in danger of losing not only her mind, but her heart?The Games We Play is a remarkably psychological story dealing with hidden depths and the things we do for love. As Rainbow Dash learns, you can never take for granted who somepony is.
Tropes present in this work:
Adorkable: Mare Do Well is starting to show signs of this in recent chapters, with the awkwardness and insecurity that she's trying so desperately to hide finally coming to light. And now apparently she's afraid of heights.
Always Someone Better: Rainbow Dash notes frequently how Mare Do Well seems to be better at her at almost everything.
Pinkie felt this way about her Mare-Do-Well persona, viewing it as strong, heroic, attractive and all the other things she thought she could never be. This is a major factor in her breakdown.
Audio Erotica: When Rainbow Dash gets drunk at the Hearth's Warming party in Canterlot, she starts rambling about how Mare Do Well has a "really sexy voice" and how she's probably "really good at making out."
Beneath the Mask: Despite her seemingly smug personality, Mare Do Well isn't so much calculating and manipulative as painfully lonely, insecure, and desperate to keep Rainbow Dash's attention so that she doesn't lose her.
Pinkie's multiple personalities aren't exactly that: instead, each one is a facet of the single personality that underlies it all. Rainbow wants to help her show her core personality more.
The Bet: Mare Do Well wants to get Rainbow Dash to fall in love with her. Rainbow Dash wants to find out who Mare Do Well really is. Who will give in first?
Beta Couple: Applejack and Rarity are together, and we see the clues and hints dropped about their relationship filtered through Dash's unknowing eyes.
Betty and Veronica: Pinkie Pie is sweet, affectionate, and bubbly, with a cheery personality and a penchant for disturbing mood swings and Stepford Smiling that doesn't go unnoticed by Rainbow Dash. Mare Do Well is dark and mysterious, with every intention of taking advantage of her own mystique to seduce Rainbow Dash and absolutely No Social Skills to speak of. Her general awkwardness, coupled with the insecurity that she's trying so desperately to hide, leads to most of her Adorkable moments.
Big Damn Heroes: Mare Do Well does this to save Rainbow after she gets struck by lightning.
Break the Cutie: Happens thoroughly to Pinkie Pie after Rainbow Dash rejects her feelings.
Broken Bird: Mare Do Well is hinted to be one, but it isn't until after The Reveal that we learn how badly damaged she really is.
Catch a Falling Star: Mare Do Well saves Rainbow from falling to her death when lightning hits her, preventing her from flying.
During the climax, Mare Do Well trips and falls during the chase across Canterlot's rooftops and Rainbow Dash saves her.
The Chessmaster: Mare Do Well. Actually, no, she has no idea what she's doing and is making it all up as she goes.
Rainbow Dash secretly wonders whether Pinkie Pie is one of these who is using Obfuscating Insanity to cover herself. Played with in that Dash cannot imagine Pinkie having any sinister motive and concludes that Pinkie simply arranges coincidences to make life happier for those around her. Basically confirmed in the end.
Cerebus Syndrome: The early chapters come across as much goofier than the later ones. Around chapter 7, the story begins to shift from a light-hearted romantic mystery to a darker, more twisted psychological drama.
Cliffhanger: A few are thrown in every now and then, but the Mother of all Cliffhangers would have to be the end of chapter 19: Mare Do Well calls the game off, so Rainbow Dash runs after her in an attempt to forcibly unmask her, and the chapter ends before she can catch her.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Both Mare Do Well and Pinkie Pie can be this way at times which makes sense, considering they're the same pony and all.
Dating Catwoman: A strange variation. Mare Do Well is completely in love with Rainbow Dash and is perfectly willing to say so. No matter what she does, her motivation can usually be summed up as "I thought Rainbow Dash would like it." Rainbow Dash, however, despises Mare Do Well, viewing her not only as a rival, but as an enemy that must be defeated; yet she's still clearly attracted to MDW, even if she won't admit it to herself.
Destructive Romance: Between Mare Do Well and Rainbow Dash. Mare Do Well is manipulative and downright mean sometimes.
Drowning My Sorrows: Applejack decides to partake in this during the Hearth's Warming Eve party and Rainbow Dash joins her, although it's mostly Played for Laughs. Until Rainbow kisses Pinkie.
Dysfunction Junction: Rainbow Dash, Mare Do Well and Pinkie Pie all have issues of their own they need to work through. Even the author admitted that their works usually invoke this trope.
Earn Your Happy Ending: It took a lot of time, discussions, revelations, heartache, and pain, but Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash finally work out their issues and slowly repair their friendship/relationship. As hard is it was, they finally find happiness and completeness in each other.
Embarrassing Rescue: Rainbow Dash's main complaint against Mare Do Well at first is her habit of saving Dash when she doesn't want saving, such as when she's hit by lightning while flying and Mare Do Well catches her, despite Rainbow's insistence that she would've been fine even if she'd hit the ground.
Exact Words: Clarified at the start of Chapter 21: "You said you wouldn't be mad" gets countered with "I said it'd be okay. But that doesn't mean I can't be mad at you first."
Exact Eavesdropping: At the time of The Reveal, it is likely that Twilight (unintentionally) overheard most of conversation between Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, before she reveals her presence (also noting that Pinkie was dressed as the MDW). Played with in that both Pinkie and Dash hear another pony nearby, but ignore it to focus on their discussion.
It's not revealed just how much Twilight heard, but it's hinted that she heard enough to know that Rainbow and Pinkie needed to work things out privately between themselves at their own pace and she asked their friends to respect that and not press the issue.
Expressive Hair: Dash eventually asks Pinkie why her mane goes flat after unmasking her.
Fandom Nod: In a sense; in chapter 12, Rainbow Dash thinks over in her head which one of her friends might be Mare Do Well, using reasoning and wording that is very similar to the guesses and speculation readers posted in the comments. This may have been unintentional.
The chapters surrounding The Reveal also have Mare Do Well bring up all the avenues of investigation Rainbow never pursued, some of which would have solved the mystery in minutes. Many of these ideas were previously noted in fan comments, so the author might have taken inspiration from the fans on this point.
The Glomp: Pinkie's traditional means of greeting Rainbow. Rainbow Dash later gets one from Mare Do Well, too, when she first wakes up after having her wings broken.
Heroic BSOD: Pinkie seems to go through one when Rainbow ditches her to continue looking for Mare Do Well. Rainbow Dash later suffers one as well, this time Played for Laughs, when she learns that her biggest lead (the fact that Rarity sold one of the Mare Do Well costumes, most likely to the Mare Do Well who's following her) is actually useless, because Spike bought it as a Nightmare Night costume.
Hidden Depths: EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. The philosophy behind the story as a whole seems to be that our perceptions of others are never quite enough to fully understand them, and that there's always more than meets the eye.
Identity Amnesia: Pinkie worries that she has this. She's sure her personality has changed so many times that she can't be certain who she ever was anymore. Rainbow Dash convinces her that who she was or may have been isn't important, and that she should start from scratch by no longer repressing her feelings and deciding who she willbe.
I Have the High Ground: Mare Do Well seems especially fond of rooftops. It turns out that she's actually afraid of heights and was only doing this to invoke Rule Of Cool.
Well, sort of. She's not afraid of heights, so much as when her Pinkie Sense goes off and she's dreading somepony falling and getting hurt.
I Kiss Your Hoof: Mare Do Well kisses Rainbow Dash's hoof when they say goodbye to one another before Dash leaves for Canterlot in order to perform in the Hearth's Warming play. Indirectly, since it's through her mask, but the intention is clear.
Interface Spoiler: After about chapter five or so, it becomes rather painfully obvious that Mare Do Well has to be Pinkie Pie — if for no other reason than that any other possibility would make no sense from a standpoint of technical narrative construction. Nopony else had enough screen time to even interact with Rainbow Dash long enough for it to not be a complete left-fielder with no buildup.
In Vino Veritas: After the Hearth's Warming Eve Play, Applejack and Rainbow Dash get a little tipsy and a little too honest with one another.
Ironic Echo: "You mean the kissy-face smoochies kind of like?" First said by Pinkie when Rainbow Dash tells her that Mare Do Well claims to like her, and later said by Rainbow Dash when Pinkie Pie confesses her feelings, immediately before attempting to kiss her.
It's All About Me: Mare Do Well seems to love tweaking Dash's tail and getting under her skin, even as her actions start to hurt the Pegasi's relationships with others. This was deliberate.
Kissing Discretion Shot: Oddly enough. In the dialogue-only chapter 21, pauses in the conversation (indicted by ellipses) are used to imply that Rainbow Dash kissed Pinkie with no actual description of the event.
Let's Get Dangerous: In relation to the above trope, when Mare-Do-Well calls the game off, Rainbow Dash prepares to give her a stern chase in an effort to forcibly unmask her, contrary to the previously set rules—since they no longer apply.
Loss of Identity: Pinkie feared that this would become more likely as the Mare Do Well game continued.
Loves My Alter Ego: Pinkie starts off trying to pursue Rainbow as the Mare-Do-Well, but after Rainbow makes one or two comments about liking MDW when the drops the act, Pinkie also tries pursuing Rainbow Dash as herself.
This is a major factor in the story. Pinkie noted that Dash was more interested in the MDW than her, so she continued being the MDW just so she can be close to Dash. Another factor in Pinkie's breakdown is the idea that Rainbow doesn't notice Pinkie's affections, despite being best friends with her, but becomes interested in the MDW after only a few minutes.
Precocious Crush: In the supplementary materials, Scootaloo realizes her hero worship of Rainbow Dash is actually this after seeing Mare Do Well kiss Rainbow. At least, that's what she thinks she sees, but since it's just an alternate perspective on a scene from the main story, the reader knows better.
And in chapter 21, surprisingly, Rainbow and Pinkie. That's right; Pinkie Pie is calm…relatively speaking.
Redundant Romance Attempt: Rainbow Dash eventually admits that she actually doesn't find Mare Do Well all that annoying, provided she's not putting on those superior airs.
All things considered, Pinkie's attempts to woo Rainbow probably would have been much better off if she'd never come up with the idea of using Mare Do Well.
The Reveal: Rainbow finally unmasks Mare-Do-Well at the end of Chapter 20.
Pinkie Pie: Surprised?
Sanity Slippage: Very subtly happens to Rainbow Dash as she tries to figure out who Mare Do Well is. It comes to a boil in chapter 19 when Mare Do Well decides to end the confrontations between them.
Say My Name: In Chapter 20, Rainbow Dash calling Mare Do Well Mare Do Well causes her to have a minor Freak Out.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mare Do Well has a noticeably formal way of speaking and a habit of using long, unnecessary words. Lampshaded when Rainbow Dash complains about her pretentiousness. She later reverts back to more casual speech after Rainbow Dash is hurt, revealing that it was just part of the act.
Rainbow Dash: Mare Do Well…Mare Do Well talked really fancy, with big words and stuff. You're still doing that.
Pinkie Pie: I'm not stupid. I can sound smart if I want to.
Sexier Alter Ego: Although there's no real change to her physical appearance (aside from the costume), Mare Do Well is charming, suave, and flirtatious, which is a far cry from how Pinkie Pie normally acts.
Ship Tease: Aside from the Rainbow/Pinkie/MDW triangle, Chapter 19 seems to hint that Applejack has an interest in Rarity.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Once Rainbow starts developing some feelings towards Mare Do Well, their interaction frequently falls into this territory.
Sleep Cute: In chapter 14, Mare Do Well and Rainbow Dash fall asleep against each other. They both later wake up but mistakenly assume that the other is still asleep, so neither move away, not wanting to disturb the other. D'aww.
Split Personality: Almost. Pinkie describes Mare Do Well as being a different mood of hers instead of a definitive alternate personality. Unlike most examples which are aware of each other, the two never converse, though she's aware which one is in control at any given time.
Spoof Aesop: Referenced in the ending: Dash considers that the whole thing would be worth writing to Celestia about, only she can't put everything she learned into words. Instead, one of these gets suggested: "Don't say your pet alligator ate your costume when he doesn't even have teeth."
Stalking Is Love: Zigzagged.Mare Do Well truly does love Rainbow Dash, but that doesn't stop the Pegasus from getting freaked out - even as she eventually begins to reciprocate. Plus, it's evident that although MDW's feelings are real, they way they've manifested themselves stems from genuine instability and mental fragility. That she's clinically insane might explain a lot.
Stepford Smiler: Pinkie is becoming more and more like this as she get's broken up by her feelings for Dash versus her firm belief that her friends will no longer like her if she's not happy. She becomes one completely after Rainbow Dash rejects her. Chapter 21 reveals she was one all along.
Take That: The author apparently has something of a playful rivalry with another writer, Tailslover13 (author of Trip Of A Lifetime and Total Magic Pony Island), who made no secret of the fact that his favorite character is Twilight Sparkle and that he firmly believed any other character being Mare Do Well would ruin the story completely. Shortly after the completion of the main story, AbsoluteAnonymous released this.
What the Hell, Hero?: In Chapter 19, Rainbow Dash gets called out by both Twilight and Mare Do Well for kissing Pinkie while drunk. Mare Do Well also accuses her of not taking their game seriously enough and claims she could have easily discovered her identity if she invaded her friends' privacy even more.
Chapter 20 and 21 involve a rather extended one from Rainbow to Mare Do Well, especially after The Reveal.