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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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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Accel World, Chiyuri "Chiyu" Kurashima initially thinks of Brain Burst as a fighting game and that her friends Takumu "Taku" Mayuzumi and Haruyuki "Haru" Arita are taking it too seriously. In reality, it's more than a game, since the ability to accelerate brings all sorts of real-life advantages, and people are willing to do unethical things to obtain the points they need to survive, so Haru and Taku make sure to warn Chiyu about this. Chiyu is disabused of her naivete when a hostile Burst Linker named Seiji Nomi shows up and forces her and Haru to do his bidding.
  • In Date A Live, Shido is very uncomfortable about his mission to seduce extremely powerful Spirits so they don't destroy the world. Kotori tells him that it doesn't matter if he gets killed, he can just press continue and start over with a new life. Annoyed, Shido says this is not a game, this is serious. Shido was not aware, but Kotori was, that he had a powerful Healing Factor and can come back from seemingly mortal wounds.
  • Digimon:
    • In Digimon Adventure, Taichi gets reckless after he learns he's in Cyberspace, thinking that the Digital World's only virtual and there's no real danger. He's eventually set straight that it's as real as Earth, with no extra lives or continues, and has a Heroic BSoD over how his recklessness could've killed him.
    • Ken mistakes the Digital World to actually BE a game in Digimon Adventure 02, not knowing he was enslaving real beings and, upon his defeat and before joining the group, threatens to "reset the Digital World".
    • Also shows up in Digimon Tamers. After learning that Digimon are real, Hirokazu and Kenta think that being a Tamer and fighting evil Digimon is the coolest thing ever. When they want to accompany Takato to one of these fights, Takato nixes it, invoking this trope.
    • Jiangliang got a taste of this trope before the series started. Prior to the series, he absolutely loved playing the Digimon computer game. Then one day after receiving a new edition of it from his father, he picked Terriermon as his starter. After some play, Jiangliang slowly realizes that it's real. After gaining Terriermon as his partner, Jiangliang swears off fighting and becomes an Actual Pacifist.
    • Takuya from Digimon Frontier, who realises this after his reckless plan to defeat Duskmon fails. He's also told this by Kouji, who scolds him for the aforementioned plan before they carry it out.
    • In Digimon Fusion, Yuu is tricked by Dark Knightmon into thinking that the Digital World is just a game (similarly to Ken, minus one Dark Seed).
  • In Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger, Randolph coldly tells Shogo to stop treating adventuring like a game after Yuko dies to the Mist Dragon. Of course, all of this was a game to Shogo until recently.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
    • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, when Jonathan fights Jack the Ripper, his mentor Baron Zeppeli gives him a test- he must defeat Jack without spilling a drop of the wine, or else Zeppeli will abandon him. Speedwagon says, "Hey, old man! This isn't a game we're playing! Are you sane?" but Zeppeli tells him to be quiet. Jojo, who understands what Zeppeli is asking of him, is able to pass the test and thus be prepared for future battles.
    • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, when Josuke fights the Nijimura brothers, he gets the first hit in on Okuyasu, the younger brother, despite the latter having an extremely powerful Stand. Keicho, the elder brother, calls Okuyasu out on not using his ability to the fullest potential.
      Keicho: This isn't a game, Okuyasu! Just thinking of the terrific power of your Stand- The Hand- is enough to make even me quake, so use it properly!
    • In the dub of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, when a young Narancia asks if Bucciarati can make him a mafioso, Bucciarati angrily says, "This isn't some game we're playing, you eager shithead!" Narancia is dissuaded for the moment, but eventually decides to join Passione, the organization Bucciarati is a part of, without the latter's knowledge.
  • In MÄR, the evil Chess Pieces have created a War Game where the last remaining strong good guys can fight against them in a final struggle for the fate of the world. When attacking the land of wizards, Kaldea, the Big Bad Phantom comes across The Protagonist Ginta, and fights him off without any effort. As said fight was not during the war games, Phantom let him live, saying that "today's fight was just for fun." Ginta promptly goes berserk, exclaiming that it is NOT a game.
  • In Naruto, Kakashi Hatake berates Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto for not taking their training seriously enough. He even says, "You think this is all a game"; he makes a point by holding Sasuke hostage and giving Sakura the option to either kill Naruto or he [Sasuke] dies. After explaining how dangerous the shinobi world can really be, and how many lives are lost from mistakes or childishness, the trio finally get what it means to be "a team".
  • One Piece:
    • 10 years prior to the start of the story, Shanks told Luffy that being a pirate is not a game. When Luffy gets captured by the bandit Higuma, Shanks has to teach Luffy some lessons how dangerous it is to live as a pirate.
    • When one of Dragon's subordinates in the Revolutionary Army celebrates winning a battle, Dragon sternly reminds him that this is war, and victories should not be celebrated.
    • In a flashback, Igaram uses this phrase regarding Vivi's proposal to infiltrate Baroque Works to find out the identity of the mastermind behind the conspiracy threatening the kingdom of Alabasta. Vivi, however, is aware of the risks and entirely serious about wanting to save Alabasta, so Igaram goes along with her plan.
    • In the Water 7 arc, Rob Lucci says this phrase verbatim to the Marines who greet him as he boards the sea train. Despite the fact that he's secured both his mission objectives, he's on his way out of the city and his enemies are dead(or at least unable to pursue him), he also scolds Kalifa for relaxing, since the mission isn't over yet. His caution is entirely warranted, since the Straw Hats are already planning on pursuing Lucci and the others to rescue Robin.
    Lucci: This isn't a game. Look sharp! Everyone board the train!
    • After Zoro tells the crew that Usopp shouldn't be allowed back into the crew until he apologizes for his insubordination, he caps off the speech by saying that they "aren't playing a game of being pirates."
  • Very early on in the Bokurano anime, Moji says this phrase almost verbatim early on, when the group is debating whether to continue with the game or to tell the authorities about it. At that point, the group has some inkling of the fact that they didn't sign up for a video game, but they don't yet realize that piloting the robot results in your death, and the loser's universe is destroyed.
  • In A Place Further than the Universe, Shirase says this phrase almost verbatim to Hinata when the latter asks to join Shirase and Kimari's plan to join a civilian expedition to Antarctica. Considering that the reason why Shirase joined is in an attempt to find her mother, who disappeared on the last expedition three years ago, and had previously tested Kimari's commitment, you can see Shirase means this. Hinata insists she's serious about it, and convinces Shirase to let her join.
  • Pokémon. In the episode spent in the Orange Islands, Team Rocket tells the twerps that "this isn't a video game?"
  • Summer Wars is about an A.I. hacking into an online virtual world that the real world uses for nearly everything. When the protagonists try to stop it, their families gradually realize the activities they have been playing on their handheld devices isn't exactly a game...
  • The eponymous Sword Art Online was designed so players who logged in couldn't log out, Permadeath was in effect, and in-game death (or attempting to remove the Nervgear headset in the real world) would kill the player in the real world. Panic sets in when most of the players realize that, until they can defeat the final boss, SAO has become their new reality. The Black Moon Guild in particular learn this the hard way when they go into a dungeon that's too high for that level and decide to open a treasure chest without checking it for traps first, which not only summons a horde of monsters but also traps them inside and disables their crystals, which could potentially be used to teleport themselves out or heal.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Shun Kurosaki uses this line when Reiji says his little sibling Reira will join them on their quest, pointing out life and death duels are no place for children. Reiji assures Reira's skills make up for his youth.
  • In Yuri is My Job!, Mitsuki is not happy with Hime's frequent slip-ups while working at the salon. When Hime realizes that Mitsuki was her former friend from elementary school, tensions between the two reach an all-time high, which is especially troubling since their "characters" in the salon are "schwestern" with each other. When Hime considers breaking off their schwester relationship, Mitsuki asks her, "You do realize that this isn't something you can break off that easily, right? This isn't a game! This is part of your job!"

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fate/Harem Antics, Ayako Mitsuari only learns about the existence of magic and the Holy Grail War due to becoming Assassin/Hassan of Serenity's new Master. Ayako angrily confronts Rin Tohsaka about leaving her Locked Out of the Loop when they have been friends for years. Rin says this isn't a game, and since Ayako can't use magic, getting involved will likely get her killed.
  • This is a point of contention between Ladybug and Chat Noir in Leave for Mendeleiev. While Ladybug takes their duty to protect Paris from Hawkmoth and the akuma seriously, Chat Noir's far more concerned with flirting, joking around, and trying to figure out her Secret Identity despite being repeatedly warned off.
    • He also regards her Miraculous Cure as a magical Reset Button: since her powers can repair the damage done by akuma, he figures that his actions don't have any long-term consequences. As Adrien, he encourages Nino to think the same way, much to Marinette's horror.
  • Lying on the Job: Ladybug learns about several incidents where Chat Noir betrayed her trust and confronts him. She repeatedly asks him whether he considers their duty to be a game; he dodges the question at first, and ultimately refuses to answer:
    Ladybug: ...Chat, do you think this is a game?
    Chat Noir: W-well, I'm definitely in it to win if that's what you mean—
    [Later, after deducing his Secret Identity]
    Ladybug: Tell me, Adrien. Tell me that this hasn't been a game to you. Tell me that you wanted to protect Paris all this time. Tell me that this hasn't been all about you.
    [Chat Noir remains silent]
  • In Miraculous! Rewrite, Chat Noir's tendency to joke around and make light of the situation during akuma battles gradually causes friction to build between him and Ladybug. This is only complicated further by how this overlaps with his efforts to flirt with her despite her disinterest. All this comes to a head in the Syren two-parter, as Master Fu takes the Ring after hearing him threatening to quit. Adrien subsequently realizes his mistakes, and proves that he can recognize when things are a Matter of Life and Death, earning another chance.
  • In Not Quite Heroes, Dr. Drakken ends up in a fight with another villain. Shego tries to convince him to cut his losses and quit, pointing out that it's not like fighting Kim Possible — if he loses this fight, he won't go to jail for a while, he'll die.
  • In the RWBY / Fate/stay night crossover One Sunny Day, Yang Xiao Long says she became a Huntress just for the thrill of exciting adventures. An irate Archer lectures her that this isn't some fun contest or game, and if she keeps treating her duties like one, people are going to die.
  • In Harry Potter and the Gaining of Faith Dumbledore chides Faith for the death of Fenrir Greyback and the interrogation and mutilation of Antonin Dolohov at the hands of her allies.
    Dumbledore: When I agreed to let you be a part of this, I didn’t imagine you would sink to such depths.
    Faith: Wake up, old man. This isn’t a fucking game. This isn’t a damn Quidditch match. We ain’t on the pitch here. This is motherfucking war.
  • Saviour of Magic:
    Random fourth-year girl: What about the Aurors? Surely they would protect us, right?
    Harry: And how long do you think it would take for the Death Eaters to kill you if you are standing right in front of them? It would all be over in a matter of seconds, long before the Ministry could even detect it. The Aurors cannot help you all the time and thanks to Bagnold and Fudge ruining the Auror corps over the years, they are limited in number. Unless you all learn to defend yourselves, you'll end up like the couple of thousand witches and wizards who died in the last war. This is not a game.
  • Super Power Beat Down: Darth Maul angrily uses this line when Spider-Man foolishly cracks a joke even though Maul is currently Force-Choking Mary Jane.
  • In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix Wright calls out Trixie on prosecuting the innocent Rainbow Dash as revenge against Twilight Sparkle, saying that this isn't a game, and she shouldn't use an innocent life to get back at Twilight.
  • In Where Talent Goes to Die, after Monokuma gives everyone the second motive- information on how to kill another classmate and/or that classmate's dirty secrets- Mitamura acknowledges that everyone has probably looked at the information already. Hoshino, who'd otherwise taken every opportunity to deride Mitamura, is actually somewhat impressed that she realizes that the killing game isn't like "playing elected official" at her old school. In response, Mitamura points out that her work for the student council wasn't a game, either, even if she's aware that the stakes are much higher now.
  • In With Strings Attached, when George asks what happens if they can't get a piece of the Vasyn during their quest, Jeft tells them that "this is not a game you can win on good intentions and points. You have victory conditions...." The other Fans think he's just using gamer terminology, but the irony is that that this really is a kind of game that Jeft set up and is actually quite true.

    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. Problem is, Titan has no use for banter or jibes - he is just a murderous, brutish thug.
    Megamind: Whoa, whoa, whoa! This isn't how you play the game!
    Titan: Game over!
  • 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 them in the resulting dogfight.
    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. 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?!?"

  • Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels:
    • In Only in Death, after the loss of Gaunt, Rawne informs his officers to tell the men that if they slip up, they will make Gaunt's sacrifice in vain. When they are shocked:
      Rawne: I'm not playing around because they're not playing around.
    • In His Last Command, when Gaunt orders Ludd to leave him, and Ludd objects that his orders were to stay with him at all times, Gaunt answers that that was fine when it was just a game, but it wasn't a game any more.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Red Fury, when Kayne speaks of how interesting the Chapters' gathering is, Rafen rebukes him: "This is not a game."
  • Dawn of War: In C.S. Goto's Dawn of War: Ascension, Gabriel threatens an Eldar to try to get a translation from him, informing him that it was not a game.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy rebukes Nico for not taking a game of capture-the-flag seriously, pointing out that they had real weapons that could really hurt: this is serious.
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Summer Knight, Ebneazer, trying to get Harry to meet with the senior members, tells him this is not a game; later, the Summer Lady asks whether he thinks it a joke or game.
    • In the same vein, Harry is later trying to teach a rebellious, headstrong apprentice of his own. She turns invisible and hides in his car, but he finds out and yells at her that this is not a game or a joke, but serious, life-or-death business-she could get badly hurt, or worse. Cue the one time in the entire series Harry refrains from being his usual Pop-Cultured Badass self.
    Molly: "Yoda never gave anybody a bracelet that..."
    Harry: "I. Am not. Yoda."
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings,
    • Just after the conspiracy is unmasked, Frodo uses a similar phrase to try to convince Merry and Pippin not to come with him.
    • Gandalf tells Pippin that "this is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party" after he tosses a rock into a deep pit in Moria.
    • At Gondor, Pippin might have liked his new get up, except that he knows this is not a play.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Small Gods has the repeated line(s), "This is Not a Game, Here and Now You Are Alive."
    • In Making Money, Mr. Bent tells Moist that banking is not a game, but Moist replies, "It is, and it's an old game called What Can We Get Away With."
  • Walter Jon Williams's appropriately titled This Is Not a Game, about an Alternate Reality Game producer using her forums and players to get her out of a burning Jakarta, has the forum admins constantly reminding the players that this one is Not a Game.
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when all four Pevensies swipe coats from the wardrobe to wear in snowy Narnia, one of the younger siblings suggests they could pretend they're Arctic explorers. An older sib points out that their circumstances are already exciting and mysterious enough, there's no need to pretend anything. Not quite a Matter of Life and Death, but same trope.
  • Subverted in the Black Jewels trilogy, in that to the Sadist, it is a game. Near the end of the series, when Daemon's not quite as cold-hearted to everything, the phrase he (and other characters) use to tell themselves they've got to keep going is, "Play the game," or keep the deception against the Big Bads going. Similarly, when witnessing an Arcerian execution, one character says, "He [the huge intelligent tiger] is playing with him [the man to be executed]." Another character replies, in a grim, low voice, "He's playing, but it isn't a game. This is an Arcerian execution." The tiger then proceeds to precisely, brutally, mercilessly murder the man by batting him around as he would a toy. Considering said tiger weighs in at around 800 pounds, the man lasts about a minute before being gutted and left to die as everyone else watchs. In case you're feeling even the slightest bit sorry for the guy, the reason for the execution was several (like, twenty plus) counts of rape, including gang raping the village's Priestess, murdering a whole village, and betraying his race, cause, and Jewel. Don't read that unless you have a strong stomach or you don't visualize things as you read them.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, the Captain criticizes humanity for thinking all of life as a game. Later, during a class discussion of the war (Iraq, then ongoing), Johnny hears someone asking whether they think the pilots treat it like a game, when they could be killed at any time, and saying that people turn everything into games and it's not games. Then he realizes it was him.
  • In Shanna Swendson's Don't Hex with Texas, Owen tells Dean that magic is not a game.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, Drephos annoys a Wasp officer by speaking of the next move in the game (the war); when asked if it was a game to him, Drephos retorts that it is the officer, too, and they knew the stakes.
  • In Dale Brown's Sky Masters, Patrick calls Dr. Masters out on his flippant, overly casual attitude with regards to the oncoming battle.
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, Menelaus watches an interaction not turn out as he expects. He is disappointed, and catches himself, reminding himself this was not a game.
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Gentleman Takes a Chance, Keith thinks a power is cool, and Rafiel starts to rebuke him. Keith says he knows it's not a game or a play, but it's still cool.
  • In Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief, Pixel discusses Isidore's detective work as if it were a game, and Isidore objects that it's not. This becomes an uncrossable cultural boundary, as Pixil is a Zoku, who perceive their entire existence as a series of games and distractions and react with horror and disgust to people controlled by ideologies.
  • The Exile's Violin: Jacquie tells Clay repeatedly that detective work is dangerous but it doesn't sink in until they are captured and tortured under suspicion of spying.
  • In Poul Anderson's "Lodestar", Nicholas van Rijn deduces where they are getting the transuranics to sell and asks for a cut. Coya and David Falkayn argue that it's just a game for him, he doesn't need the money, but it's not a game for those doing it. He gives it up — and Coya realizes that he's old.
  • In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, when Meghan realizes that the Iron Fey are still killing the wyldwood, Puck argues that this is not a game to try to get her to go home.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers:
    • Whose Body?, at one point, Lord Peter Wimsey talks with Parker about his misgivings, and Parker points out that, though he started this as a distraction, it's not a game, and he can't act like a sportsman in it.
    • In Clouds of Witness, Peter goes to see his brother in jail. Gerald tells him he wishes he'd stop playing at detective, and Peter tells him that it's not a game.
  • In Poul Anderson's The Un-Man, Naysmith, in the headlong flight from government agents, is a great pains to invert this trope for the two-year-old boy he's rescued, convincing him it's just an exciting game, because the trauma from terror would be too great at that age.
  • Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain:
    • Most of the super community, heroes and villains alike, treat the whole thing as a game, with lots of grandstanding and speeches and posing for the cameras. Not Generic Girl. She just stops crime.
      Generic Girl: You're mining a trash heap. Not for uranium, just for junk. Stop pretending to be a supervillain, Penelope. This isn’t a game.
      Bad Penny: Then why are you playing, Claudia?
    • In the prequel novel I Did NOT Give That Spider Superhuman Intelligence!, we find out why the community treats it like a game. When they didn't, things got very personal, lots of people died, and LA was turning into a mad science warzone. It took Spider stepping in to turn things around. Interestingly, she only did this because she owed Goodnight a favor, and knew that Goodnight wanted superheroing to be fun.
      Neon Rider: This isn't a game.
      Spider: Perhaps we should make it one.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, when Nastasia is once again being a stickler for rules (which she can push to Lawful Stupid levels), Zoe tells her that they are not playing a game of D&D and the princess is not Lawful Good.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Due to their Blood Knight nature, the Alethi treat war as a game, with the reward being a place battling in the afterlife. It's more formalized than most examples, as they even keep a big scoreboard in the king's main meeting room, which tracks how much money each highprince has won. The board notably does not track how many soldiers have died, and Dalinar spends a lot of time trying to convince people to take the war seriously, out of respect to the fallen if nothing else. It's also pointed out that the Alethi could easily defeat their enemy for good if they would just work together, but the highprinces have far more fun racing each other for the prize.
  • In "The Greatest Game: Hunters," one of Major Karl Bolle's first lessons to his trainees for the fighter branch after introducing himself, laying down the ground rules, going over what he's going to teach and saying how few of his trainees survive long enough to become aces, is to disabuse them of the notion that dogfighting is a game.
    Bolle: An Englishman once called air combat "The greatest game that God ever invented." I would bet money that he now lies in a shallow grave in Flanders. THIS IS NOT A GAME!
  • In one of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels, Hastings rebukes Poirot for his deceptive tactics by saying he's not 'playing the game.' Poirot sternly replies that murder is not a game.
  • A similar sentiment comes up in one short story published in Cicada magazine. The main character, Brian, gets a telescope from his Defrosting Ice Queen stepmom Monica, who tells him that it isn't a toy. Brian agrees, but notes that she said the same thing about the Play Station 2 she gave him earlier.
  • The Jenkinsverse: A variant comes up in the Salvage story.
    Trycrur: Think of it like a game. Except if you lose you kill everyone.
    Adrian: That's real fucking reassuring.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, during the first book, Jon brings up Daeren Targaryen, who conquered Dorne at the age of fourteen. His uncle Benjen isn't impressed.
    Benjen: Your Boy King lost ten thousand men taking the place and another fifty trying to hold it. Someone should have told him that war isn't a game.
  • The Heartstrikers: Julius's brother Bob is a Mad Oracle, and crazy even by that standard. Julius eventually gets fed up with his antics.
    Julius: This isn't a game, you know.
    Bob: Of course it's a game. Everything's a game, Julius. It has to be. Life is whimsical, random, and cruel, but a game is something you can win.
  • Warformed Stormweaver: The Simulated Combat Tournaments have become humanity's most popular form of entertainment, as soldiers use the incredible Combat Assistance Devices in non-lethal combat against each other, displaying strength and speed far above normal human limits. Captain Valera Dent, a former champion of the SCTs who now works as an instructor at an academy, repeatedly reminds the cadets that the Devices are primarily tools for war. They are all explicitly soldiers being trained to fight on the front lines, and only the top twenty percent will have the choice to opt out in favor of the tournaments. Everyone else will be fighting and dying for the cause. She herself volunteered to go to the front lines despite being exempt, and was severely injured as a result.

    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.

    Video Games 
  • In Advance Wars 2, this trope manifests itself during the Yellow Comet campaign mission "A Mirror Darkly" involving Sonja and Lash, in which the former calls out the latter:
    Lash: Oh well, I still have plenty of pieces to play with.
    Sonja: P-Pieces?! I can't believe you said that! This [war] isn't a game! You're not on some kind of playground!
    Lash: Oh, but it IS a game. A wonderfully fun game between you and me!
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Tyalie’s entire outlook is based on defying this. Life is totally a game, (and she knows it), so she’s determined to have as much fun with it as she possibly can, and wants to make sure that everyone else is having fun too!
    Catie: How can you still be treating this like a game? It's not a game, at least not from where I'm standing.
    Tyalie: Sure it is! Life isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be so full of gloom and suffering. Have fun with it - the good and the bad, because it's all part of an experience that will never come again!
  • A Cut USA General from Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour has lines left over in the game's files. Amongst these is "What? Do you think this is a game? Well, do ya?" Lampshaded, in that moments afterward he prompts the player "not to answer that," thus finding a hole in that wall we never see.
  • Double Switch features this clever wordplay in the event of a Game Over, courtesy of Lyle the Repairman.
    Lyle the Repairman: You thought this was just a GAME, didn't you?! Well, it's OVER for you!
  • Rinoa in Final Fantasy VIII is called out twice during the first disc, first by Squall and later by Quistis, over the lack of professionalism they see in her approach to resistance against Galbadia. Rinoa herself is already very well aware that it's not a game, but she lacks the training and experience that the SeeDs have had, and it takes her a while to understand just how far in she is over her head.
    Rinoa: "Who said this was a game...? I understand what's going on..."
  • Final Fantasy XIII gives us this:
    Lightning: Keep running—it's die or turn Cie'th. There's no place for l'Cie to hide. No…they want a fight? Let's take it to the Sanctum's door!
    Sazh: This isn't a game!
    Lightning: No. That's for damn sure. It started with Serah. The fal'Cie took her. Now I'm a l'Cie. And the Sanctum's hunting me, an enemy of the state. But who's pulling their strings? A fal'Cie. Eden. Cocoon's sustainer and guiding light. It probably ordered the Purge, too. Pulse and Sanctum fal'Cie? They're all the same. And we're all the same to them: expendable. I'm not dying a fal'Cie slave.
  • This is ultimately the point of between Robin (The Player Character) and Virion's support arc with one another in Fire Emblem Awakening. Virion and Robin play chess, and Virion always wins. When Robin mentions that Virion should be the one giving orders, he tells Robin to check the board because he can only win at great cost and half the moves he makes in this game could not be used in a real battle because knowledge of Chess does not mean one can win a battle.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, early on in the Blue Lions route, Dimitri expresses eagerness at seeing his professor Byleth and Byleth's father, the renowned mercenary and former captain of the Knights of Seiros, Jeralt the Blade Breaker, fight side by side. Byleth can tell him, "This isn't a game," and regardless of which choice is made, Dimitri apologizes for saying something so childish, before mentioning that his parents are dead.
  • In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, if Felix consistently antagonizes Kraden by saying no to certain questions thoughout the game, he'll eventually flip out and give an epic rant to this effect:
    Kraden: What!? Are you INSANE!? Or maybe you think you're funny? Because you're not! Maybe this whole quest is just a game to you, but it's not to me! Are you bored!? Do you want to go home!? FINE! That's it! Then let's go home!
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories has Nurse Bob going "Now, look, life ain't a cartoon! And it sure as hell in a handbasket ain't no game!"
  • In Jak 3: Wastelander, the monk Seem tells Jak and Daxter "This isn't a game!", and they respond by giving a side glance to the camera.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the King of Hyrule used this phrase almost verbatim on his daughter, frustrated that she hasn't made more progress unlocking her sealing magic and is instead trying to study the Guardians and other ancient technology. Unfortunately, Zelda is fully aware of what's at stake and is completely serious about preparing to stop Calamity Ganon, so all the King's lecture does is worsen her feelings of inadequacy.
  • On one Side Quest in Mass Effect, Shepard has to convince a woman to stop working as an informant because her sister is worried about her. At one point, Shepard says "This isn't a game, Jenna. These people are dangerous!".
  • Naomi says a variant of it in Metal Gear Solid 4 while images of the logos of all the previous canonical games come up on the screen.
  • In Persona 3, near the start of the game, Mitsuru sighs and exasperatedly tells Akihiko that hunting Shadows isn't a game.
  • In Persona 4, teen detective Naoto Shirogane drops by the main characters to inform them that the murders they have been investigating have apparently been solved, and that their 'game' is about to end. Of course, by this point many of them have either lost friends or nearly been killed themselves over the course of the investigation, and Rise (the latest kidnapping victim) angrily points out that if anyone thinks of it as a 'game' it would be Naoto, not them.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:
    Prince: If you want to be useful, try finding a book that'll tell us how to get out of here.
    Farah: This isn't that kind of game.
    Prince: Game? She thinks this is a game!
  • Spider-Man (2000):
    Spider-Man: This isn't a game, Mysterio! The symbiotes will destroy everything in their path unless I can stop them!
  • During StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, during Sarah Kerrigan's trolljob in the first mission (which is basically a tutorial that goes Off the Rails In-Universe), Valerian will remark: "This isn't a game, Kerrigan!"
  • System Shock 2, said by your Mission Control: "Why do you move so slowly? Do you think this is some kind of game?"
  • The phrase "This isn't a field trip" is used twice in Tales of Symphonia. The first time is when Kratos escorts Colette, along with her friends Genis and Lloyd, into the monster-infested Temple of Martel, immediately after saving the three from being killed by the first boss. Raine says the line a second time to curb Genis' enthusiasm when the group arrives on Tethe'alla.
  • In Thwaite, in a No-Damage Run in progress, one of the villagers thinks the action is just an elaborate fireworks show, and another has a hard time convincing him otherwise.
  • Wheelman: The very first line spoken: "You think this is a game? Move!"
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Rindo starts to use the phrase "this isn't a game" on his friend Fret, but upon remembering that the Deadly Game they're trapped in is literally called the Reaper's Game, realizes this isn't the best choice of words and stops himself short.
  • In World of Warcraft, Varian says this in response to Jaina, with the player's help, exiling all the Sunreavers from Dalaran and bringing the Kirin Tor into the Alliance.
    Varian: I can't fault you for following orders. In fact, I can't really fault Jaina for acting on her own behalf, for once. But still... we aren't playing a game here. We are dealing with war, with people's lives, with the future of the Alliance itself.

    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.
  • 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.