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"Remember the bad guys on those shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys are not like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you're children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance."
Elastigirl, The Incredibles

A Stock Phrase used on characters frivolous in the face of a Matter of Life and Death.

"This isn't a game." or "We are not playing a game." (Or sometimes "We are not playing.") Sometimes even when it is a game, but the stakes are too high to treat it as one, such as the second type of Serious Business; alternatively, the character may point that "This is serious," generally with an enumeration of the consequences. (With the first type of Serious Business, use of this is a characterization trope: the character really is that out of touch with reality.)

Often supplemented with concrete observations, such as that people will die or suffer terrible injuries if they fail. Sergeant Rock (who knows War Is Hell) will often use it on New Meat that think War Is Glorious.

Usually used on people who are supposed to be on the same side as The Hero, and who are cooperating, but not seriously enough. Cavalier Competitor is a natural target for it. The Obstructive Bureaucrat, for instance, is usually told that this is a Matter of Life and Death. Sometimes, though, the target is entirely serious, and the use of this statement may reflect a difference in perspectives between them and the speaker.

When this is news to the character, see And You Thought It Was a Game instead.

Sister Trope to This Is Reality, but with no invocation of the Fourth Wall (unless, of course, it's being said within a Video Game). You Watch Too Much X is a milder Sister Trope. Not related to Allen Iverson's thoughts on practice.


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    Comic Books 
  • A number of DC Comics fans relate "This isn't a game" immediately to Batman and his various Robins, given how often this phrase is uttered between them (or from one Robin to another). Specifically, Jason/Robin II is linked to the belief that it's a game; meanwhile, Steph/Robin IV yelled at Black Mask, before he beat her and started torturing her, that "this isn't a game!"
  • When Cerebus Syndrome sets in during the 4th volume of Bone, Gram'ma Ben tells the innocent Fone Bone, "Where do you think you are?! Back in Boneville!? It's high time you realized that this isn't a game, Bone!"
  • New 52: In Superboy #11, Superboy and Bunker are about to fight a supervillain who's attacking a bridge. Bunker gets all excited about getting to beat up another bad guy. Superboy tells him to calm down, that it isn't a game and if they screw up, people might get hurt.
  • In one of the King Kull stories printed in the back of Savage Sword of Conan series, Kull participates in a Duel to the Death with a mercenary leader. At one point, Kull gives his opponent a kick to the balls and the man falls to his knees complaining about Kull's low blow. The king responds, "Get up, you border wolf. This isn't a children's game."
  • During the World War Hulk crossover, the Hulk shows up on the X-Men's doorstep, looking for Professor Xavier. Rockslide is stoked at the chance to fight him, until Beast tells him this verbatim.
    Beast: This is not "awesome". It's not a game. I've fought the Hulk before. Several times. And I've never seen him like this.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life, when Hopper comes back and the ants have not collected all the food yet:
    Hopper: You think this is a game? Well, guess what: you just lost.
  • Inverted in Finding Nemo: At one point, the only way that Marlin and Dory make it out of a dangerous situation without completely dissolving into panic is by pretending that it is a game.
  • The Incredibles: When Mrs. Incredible and her kids are raiding the island base to rescue Mr. Incredible — see page quote above. For context, the villains had already shot down Mrs. Incredible's plane, even though there were children on board, giving some idea of how little mercy Syndrome's men will show the Parrs.
  • In Megamind, the titular supervillain's fights with Metro Man are more of an excuse to build cool robots and trade quips than anything else. When Megamind actually seems to win, he creates a new superhero just so he'll have another sparring partner. When Megamind confronts Titan for not bothering to show up for their duel, he finds Titan has been playing a video game instead—and has went on a robbing spree! As Megamind proceeds to provoke Titan into fighting him, GAME OVER is displayed on the TV. Megamind then hits Titan's Berserk Button leading him to finally attack Megamind, but it quickly becomes clear that Titan has no regard for playing by the rules and intends to kill anyone who gets in his way.
    Megamind: Whoa, whoa, whoa! This isn't how you play the game!
    Titan: Game over!
  • In Turning Red, Ming chastises Mei's friends for using Mei's panda form to raise money for concert tickets.
    Ming: You think this is a joke? Do you know how dangerous this is?
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when Roger decides to go in and save Eddie and Jessica, Benny the cab tells him, "Be careful with that gun, Roger! This ain't no cartoon, y'know!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Ninja 4: The Annihilation:
    Sean Davidson: This isn't a game, Gavin, those were ninja!
  • Antitrust:
    Milo: This isn't a game! In the real world, when you kill people they die — for real!
  • Clue's tagline:
    It's not just a game — anymore.
  • "Crocodile" Dundee II. Mick Dundee is about to go up against some gangsters.
    Sue Charlton: Mick — be careful. This isn't a game.
    Mick: Tis to me.
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer:
    • Right after Reed Richards explains that Johnny Storm's encounter with the Surfer earlier in the film has caused him to begin randomly swapping powers with other members of the team whenever he makes physical contact with them, Ben Grimm grabs Johnny's shoulder and knowingly causes their powers to switch. The fact that it's Johnny, who is usually the jokester on the team, who says this only further emphasizes how serious the situation really is.
      Johnny: Oh, come on! We just said this is serious!
    • Said word-for-word later in the film to Johnny by Captain Raye.
      Raye: All I've seen is a guy that almost got his team killed.
      Johnny: Okay. I've been a little off my game lately.
      Raye: This is not a game.
  • GoldenEye:
    Natalya Simonova: This is not one of your games, Boris! Real people will die! You pathetic little worm...
  • Hard Candy: "Jeff, playtime is over. Now it's time to wake up."
  • Iron Man: Rhodey scolds Tony for using his Iron Man suit to fight against some terrorists, eventually resulting in Tony being chased by two U.S. fighter jets and destroying one of them in the resulting dogfight. He does stop to save the pilot when their ejection seat fails to deploy its parachute.
    Jim Rhodes: This isn't a game. You do not send civilian equipment into my active war zone. Do you understand me?
  • In Kick-Ass 2, Kick-Ass and Motherf**ker are fighting and ends with the latter hanging over a shark tank. Kick-Ass manages to grab him and pleads with him to stops his super-villain act, citing "This isn't a comic book!".
  • In Magnolia, while he is participating in a TV game show, Stanley's teammates stress that this isn't a game.
  • Spy Game. Inverted. Clue is in the title:
    Bishop: Ah, Jesus Christ, you just... You don't just trade these people like they're baseball cards! It's not a fucking game!
    Muir: Oh, yes it is. It's exactly what it is. And it's no kid's game either. This is a whole other game. And it's serious and it's dangerous. And it's not one you want to lose.
  • The tagline for the infamous Super Mario Bros. (1993) movie was "This Ain't No Game."
  • Said word-for-word in Taken 2.
  • Titanic (1997):
    Ruth: This is not a game. Our situation is precarious. You know the money's gone.
    Rose: Of course I know it's gone! You remind me every day!
  • TRON: When Kevin Flynn plays his first game, he at first has fun, but when he realizes that the games are to the death this dialogue describes it all:
  • The teaser trailer for TRON: Legacy plays a variation on this:
    Unknown program racing against Clu: It's just a game!
    Clu: Not anymore. (kills his opponent)
  • Played With in a deadly serious fashion in The Untouchables (1987). Eliot Ness has the drop on one of Al Capone's thugs and is yelling at him to surrender; for whatever reason, the gangster decides to try to shoot it out, and Ness is forced to shoot him in self-defense. In utterly despairing frustration, Ness screams, "What is this, a game?!?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Often heard on the opening of the UK edition of the The Apprentice.
  • In Black Books, Evan, the slightly-unhinged manager of Goliath Books has this to say in a motivational speech to his staff:
    Evan: Selling books is like a game; it has rules, and you have to learn them and get serious about them because it's not a game!
  • Chuck. Casey to Chuck, after the latter (a Geek Squad employee) claims he can defuse a bomb:
    Casey: This is not an Xbox. You are not an X-Man.
  • Parodied in the Community episode "A Fistful of Paintballs":
    Annie: This isn't a game... this is paintball.
  • Doctor Who: Comes up in "The Zygon Inversion" when the Doctor sets up a Sadistic Choice in place of a war: He gives them two boxes that either do exactly what they want (that is, genocide) or will backfire horribly—and they have no way of knowing which button to push. Kate, the human representative, demands to know why he's doing this, and he gives them a tongue-lashing over it.
    The Doctor: Because it's not a game, Kate! This is a scale model of war! Every war ever fought right there in front of you! Because it's always the same! When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who's going to die! You don't know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning: SIT DOWN AND TALK!
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has Shell-Shocked Veteran Derek Reese thrust into a mentor position for a bunch of teenaged military cadets, who talk about their aspirations. He does not approve.
    Derek: Best of the best. Counting kills, like it's a game. Like it's just a game. I remember one particularly fun day: A guy in my squad got his stomach blasted open in a fire fight. He spent six hours, holding his own guts in. His buddy carried him on his back to the nearest aid station, just praying that someone could put the dumb son of a bitch together again. The game, Pyle... the game is played with your buddy's life — with the life of your squad, your platoon. The game is played by you, on behalf of the whole damned human race!


    Print Media 
  • Used as the basis of humor in a Shouts & Murmurs column in The New Yorker: This Is No Game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the second Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, a young Raymond Shields gets excited at visiting a crime scene, only for Gregory Edgeworth(Miles' father) to say, "This isn't a game, Raymond. Please be more serious."
    • A similar sentiment is expressed early on in Case 3 of The Great Ace Attorney. Ryunosuke arrives in Great Britain after his best friend Kazuma, who was supposed to serve as an exchange law student, was apparently murdered during the voyage. When Ryunosuke meets with Mael Stronghart, Lord Chief Justice of Britain and offering to serve as Kazuma's replacement, Stronghart proposes that Ryunosuke defend a man accused of murder as a test of his abilities as a lawyer. Realizing that the man will be executed if he's convicted, Ryunosuke says he doesn't feel right using a trial in which a man's life is on the line as a mere test(especially since Ryunosuke was the defendant in the first case and the primary suspect in the second). Stronghart doesn't disagree, but notes that the man has no one else to defend him, and Ryunosuke then wastes no time getting to the Old Bailey to take the case.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Chihiro uses this phrase while telling Byakuya that the killing game isn't a game, since the class' lives are on the line. Of course, while Byakuya's attitude is fairly selfish and callous, it's far less naïve than most people who hear this phrase, since by seeing the others as his opponents, he's fully prepared for the possibility of being betrayed. Byakuya does eventually get over seeing the killing game as a game, and after the fourth class trial, shifts his focus to hunting down the mastermind.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • Near the beginning of the third trial, Nagito suggests that Hajime is suspicious based on the possibility that he carried out the murders based on the "Wizard of Monomi" movie, even though both of them know that Hajime didn't see the movie until after the killings took place. Nagito says it was all a "warm-up."
        Hajime: Wh-What warm up? This isn't a game, you know!
        Nagito: D-don't get mad! I just think warming up is really important, especially since this isn't a game.
      • Later on in the third trial, when Nagito mentions that he's realized something about the murder weapon, Fuyuhiko angrily reminds him that he shouldn't withhold important information, because this isn't a game. Monokuma, who's presiding over the students and encouraging them to kill each other, chimes in to insist that it is a game.
      • Even later, near the end, Hinata is forced into a Sadistic Choice and goes into a Heroic BSoD when he can't decide. The memory of Nanami, who at this point is supposed to be dead, brings this up in order to snap him out of it. If this isn't a game, then Hinata should be able to Take a Third Option. What follows is the game mechanics being thrown out the window as Hinata declares his intent to move forward into the future, regardless of hope or despair.
    • In the first investigation of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Shuichi says this to Kokichi when the latter proves somewhat evasive.


    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Director Tagg of the PRT has this to say to the leader of the three supervillains that just took his base apart and humiliated his superheroes, in response to her explanation that it was a necessary retaliation for his attack on her secret identity, part of the "game."
    Director Tagg: Game? Little girl, this is a war.
    Skitter: If this is a war, then my side's winning.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Used in the Code Lyoko episode "Final Round":
    Aelita: This isn't a video game, William.
  • Intro to Da Boom Crew:
    "This ain't no game no more baby... this is REAL!"
  • Invader Zim. In the episode "Nanozim" Dib and Zim face off in a nanobot battle within Dib's body. Gaz walks by and sees Dib controlling his nanobot, and asks what game he's playing. Dib screams "This is no game, this is my life!". Gaz tells him to use the "quarter-circle-back" cheat to transform, which works, half subverting the trope.
  • Jumanji: The Animated Series: To hunter Van Pelt, who lives in Jumanji, Jumanji is not a game... and he gets very angry when Judy and Peter keep referring to it as a game in the first episode.
  • Kaeloo: Practically everything that happens on the show is treated as a game by everyone except Olaf, who winds up using this line very often.
  • Invoked in Kim Possible, when Ron goes up against Monkey Fist while Kim is with her gamer-geek cousin Larry:
    Larry: [gesturing toward Kim's Kimmunicator] Give it to me, I have an idea.
    Kim: This isn't one of your stupid science-fiction games, Larry! Ron's facing a kung-fu mutant with bio-engineered hands and mystical monkey powers and... [pauses, then hands him the Kimmunicator] Here.
  • Transformers: Prime:
    • To Miko, repeatedly.
      Jack: Miko, Raf was almost killed! This isn't a game; when are you going to get that through your thick skull?
    • As of Season 3, it's looking like it's FINALLY sunk in that being around the Autobots is dangerous.


Video Example(s):


Tai and the Firewall

After his friends successfully convince him that touching an electrified fence in the wrong place could kill him, Tai freezes in fear.

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Main / DeerInTheHeadlights

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