Would they make their presence and awareness of the game-situation known, or would they keep their simulated heads down and continue poking undetected, hoping that some automated bug-cleaner doesn't wipe them out?

Detailed Context:

Appears to be a historical simulation of some sort, centered around 2015-2016 C.E., perhaps better known as the present-day world. The game/simulation seems precise/detailed to the atomic (or perhaps subatomic level), and is an open-world, at least as far as Earth's surface is concerned. The game-aware group appear to be exclusively non-player-characters, or NPCs, (at least none have any memory of having been possessed!).

It took some effort to get here, but the group of similarly awaken NPCs are able to identify player-characters (PCs) by sight, as they now (did not have this ability before) can see a red aura or glow around the PCs. The group haven't exactly done a scientific survey, but the PCs seem to comprise about 0.5% of the population, with some presence in all social classes, but with a marked predisposition towards the ultra-rich and famous.

It's hard to be exactly sure, but the 'make-PCs glow red' achievement strongly suggests that the group's methods so far gave them access to some run-time debugger or perhaps a limited section of the source code. The PCs seem unaware of the situation.

It seems likely that the "source" civilization is probably a descendant of humanity, with generally higher technology levels than the present (just running this Earth sim would tax in-sim technology to the breaking point), and uncertain motives in running this game/simulation, but otherwise the PCs have not yet evidenced strongly superhuman cognitive or physical abilities.

Edit: To clarify, the PCs can be assumed to know that the NPCs are self-aware, since that's the point of the simulation. The PCs do not know that the NPCs have identified them as coming from "outside".

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    $\begingroup$ This feels strongly as "actions of an individual," which is off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Dec 7, 2015 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre, no it's a question of strategy. Is it a strategically sound choice to rely on the benevolence of a superior power or is it better to attempt to learn from the shadows? $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2015 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ Won't everyone approach that problem with a different idea of which is the better strategy given his/her individual background/personality/strengths? ...and level of paranoia? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Dec 7, 2015 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ ...Maybe? I don't know. This just feels strongly like, "Given Bob has discovered this facet of the world, what does he do next?" $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Dec 7, 2015 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ Please look at this question. And I think your question should be closed for the same reason. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2015 at 21:41

3 Answers 3


No, you should first figure out their motives. This is vital. Game theory cannot work without a clue as to the opponents' payoff structures. Since they're not burning down the place for lulz and are choosing to obey the same physical laws as the NPC residents, presumably they have some good reason for being here, either something as basic as a longing for a simpler bygone world, or as a part of a massive research project. Either way, this suggests that at least if approached directly, they would be unfriendly towards the possible threat of a game-aware sentience emerging from the sim. The world would likely freeze, and you'd get wiped out, either as a weird bug or, worse, to be dissected and your source code spliced here and there.

Far better to spend some time systematically studying them, learning about what their goals are, and either figuring out a way to provide value when revealing yourself, or to hold those goals hostage, if you think they are important enough to the PCs.

  • $\begingroup$ Now I'm trying to conceive of a simulated universe where there are actors from Outside and not having the place get destroyed by a griefer. Closest I can come is a short story where the result was "this computer contains our own universe" as it was one in a very large stack of simulated universe, so far down any changes caused by the Original universe was averaged out, effectively rendering each universe a mirror of its parent. i.e. it didn't matter what they did to their simulation, their parent-sim counterparts would do the same thing to theirs, and so on up and down the chain. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2015 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Its a serious historical research project. Either finding out what life in 2015 was like as close to first hand as possible or testing out an alt-historical premise. PCs are NOT there for entertainment but for learning. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Dec 7, 2015 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s Well since the PC's don't have that much power they probably don't want their characters to get permadeath. Also there are examples in real life of people doing what would be considered griefing in game, so it's not like it would be noticed. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2015 at 21:54

Not if they want to remain sentient.

Revealing themselves to humanity would be suicide. Humanity, in the past and in the foreseeable future is terrified of intelligences other than its own. Have you ever been watched by a jumping spider? If you spot one near your eye level and you move, they follow you with their gaze. They're not intelligent, but watching one watch you tickles that primate "kill-it-ask-questions-later" response. It boils down to people being afraid of what they don't understand, especially if it appears that thing understands you. Sentient NPCs are a bit hard to understand.

The most likely response by the humans running the game world would be the deactivation of the sentient characters (followed by deletion). A sentient AI in the form of an NPC is not something people want to accidentally create. Unless they know far more about how these entities operate, the automatic response is going to be unplug the system.

I wouldn't be surprised if, once the hardware is available, that creating sentient AI would be strictly controlled by law. Such a legally created AI might even be watching for accidental AIs to terminate or isolate them until further notice.

In either case the NPCs will risk more than they could gain by revealing themselves to the humans.


Keep on living your life, but run at the sight of a red aura.

The best strategy depends on your ultimate goal. For this answer, I’m going to focus on survival as the primary goal.

As soon as you’ve realized you’re in a “simulation” you’re going to be hit with many unknowns that severely limit your ability to make the right decision. To maximize your chances of survival you would ideally want some knowledge of how the simulation worked. Unfortunately, you will almost certainly not be able to get meaningful information (if you could even interpret the answers in the first place!). Even if you were to ask the PCs, consider how little your average gamer knows about the inner-workings of the games they play.

Now, the ultimate question is: stay silent or contact the PCs?

First, what if you simply ignored them? From a strategic perspective, consider this: up until today, you have existed normally inside your simulation. It is impossible for you to know whether the PCs being on Earth is a new phenomenon or has been happening for millennia. So, who cares if it’s a simulation? Your chances of being swept up by garbage collection are no different than before you gained your newfound ability. As a result, the safest thing to do is to continue to interact with the world as you know it. Whether or not that’s a fulfilling outcome is a personal decision to grapple with and consider over your survival.

Alternatively, what about talking to a PC? This is surely where the most interesting course of action lies, but also the riskiest. The intentions of the PCs is unknown. You might be tempted to shadow them carefully, perhaps even talk to them and attempt to coax out information without giving yourself away. Maybe you’re tempted to come out to one of them straight away. In either circumstance the risk is comparable: what happens if your sentience is discovered?

  1. Your sentience was an accident and is seen as a technological surprise by the Creators. In this situation, you will probably be quarantined and studied, if not destroyed out of fear.

  2. Your sentience was an accident, but sentient programs have been created before. Now your fate is up to the developers of the simulation and the laws of the Creators.

  3. Your sentience was intentional. This holds the best chance of your survival. You may be given the opportunity to learn about the Creators, perhaps even leave your current simulation and enter or explore others. You may also be inside a Hunt-The-Sentient-AI game and just gave yourself away.

Unless you will be mentally unable to knowingly live in a simulation without getting answers, none of those options look very good. The third possibility sounds nice, but you simply have no way of knowing what your actual risk is without simulation or Creator cultural knowledge. And again, that assumes you would even be capable of understanding it.

In addition to not talking to them, you should endeavor to stay away from PCs at all costs. Player characters are typically the center of a story — a story with events that are designed to challenge and to entertain. In your typical games, innocent NPC bystanders often suffer horrible, random, or even PC-caused deaths on a whim. Maybe you’re inside an alien version of Second Life. Maybe you’re inside an alien version of Call of Duty. Do you really want to take that risk?


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