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After a satisfyingly traditional evening of watching videos of cats doing silly things on a popular video sharing website, I started to think...

While we play 'games' with our pets, generally these games involve performing a task that we can easily understand but is completely beyond the comprehension of the animal (ex: getting a cat to chase a laser pointer around the floor) or a little closer to comprehension but still enough to confuse an average animal (ex: pretending to throw for a dog, but you aren't holding anything)

There may be occasional exceptional animals who seem to understand, or at least work out a different way to react, but the vast majority would be completely oblivious of the game despite it being a completely unnatural situation.

Now imagine humans are being kept as pets by an alien we have no awareness of. This can be on any scale you find appropriate... it could be an individual alien to an individual or small number of humans, or the entire planet Earth could be a 'fish bowl'.

What games might our alien masters play with us for their own entertainment, while we remain mostly oblivious?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Hohmannfan, JDługosz, Vincent, Frostfyre Jul 2 '16 at 18:07

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Please be aware that downvotes without a reason are not helpful $\endgroup$ – Darren H Jul 2 '16 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ You might have better luck if you narrow down your question. If you for instance if you tell us more about what kind of aliens they are and what scale it happens on. Otherwise this falls under "too broad" and "Impossible to answer". You're kind of asking people to invent an alien race for you in addition to answering your question. $\endgroup$ – Martine Votvik Jul 2 '16 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ I see your point. I'm out at the moment and will edit the question when I am home $\endgroup$ – Darren H Jul 2 '16 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ Chose single individuals, identify to them as "god" and tell them they are chosen to be be the next prophet. Then tell them things guaranteed to cause trouble later on. And then lean back and watch the results. If done right, entertainment will be assured for centuries, if not millennia. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 2 '16 at 11:44
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The games we play with pets mostly take advantage of their instincts. This could not be performed on humans, even if the aliens are vastly more intelligent than us, because we would recognize situations in which our instincts are inefficient (unlike other animals).

However, it would be possible for technologically very advanced aliens capable of masking their presence and actions to play with us as a group, rather than individuals, by making us chase fish to eat (moving the swarms of fish they can force fisherman to go where they want), manipulating the weather to move us or see how we'd behave in unfavorable conditions or even play with us like we play in god simulation games, modifying the environment (weather, spread of information, found artifacts etc.) in a manner such that they can direct us, make us attack other groups of humans, or to take down a civilization which has grown boring to them, and start anew.

If these aliens are immortal they might be playing with us on an interplanetary scale, holding races between planets they seeded to see who goes to space first/finds another of their seeds first/survives longer than all other seeds etc.

Perhaps they could even have designed us as an organism like we design robots to pit against each other in fighting rings.

Edit: as a comment suggested, another game they could play with us is inserting extraordinary individuals to see the effect they have on the world, this could be particularly intelligent ones (like Einstein?), particularly mad ones (like jack the ripper?) etc.

Their games could also be of a more intellectual form, perhaps they have constructed a universe for us with just one thing that's slightly off and are waiting to see how long it takes us to notice the paradox. This would imply that they are not only much more advanced than we are but also exist in more dimensions than we do (because they are able to create universes) or that our entire universe is a simulation

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  • $\begingroup$ After the last week's UK/EU news I have to wonder whether one or more of the public figures involved are actually puppets controlled by creatures beyond our understanding playing games with us. It makes about as much sense as the more mundane explanations! $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Jul 2 '16 at 12:49
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Miracles

The aliens could perform miraculous things and then see how we explain them.

For example, it is common to use aliens or time travelers in science fiction to explain

  1. The splitting of the Red Sea.
  2. A burning bush talking to Moses.
  3. The resurrection of Christ.

Other religions will of course have their own miracles to explain. And of course there are perfectly mundane explanations of these.

  1. An exceptionally low tide, possibly caused by a (predictable) near pass from a comet or other extraterrestrial object.
  2. Moses made the story up to explain the new commandments in a way that people would accept.
  3. Christ was never dead, just unconscious. After dark, the Romans took him off the cross and nursed him back to health. Three days later he visits his apostles to tell them that he is done with the Messiah business. They are welcome to carry on.

But where's the fun in those explanations? God, aliens, and time travel are much more fun.

Anyway, the aliens are curious how many people will go with the mundane explanations versus more supernatural explanations.

Also fun with answering prayers. Someone's doing a rain dance to bring rain? Make it rain. They try it again but it doesn't work. Make it work just often enough that someone eventually tries stronger prayers, including sacrifices. Rain more often as the sacrifices grow. Definitely answer the first human sacrifice with rain. See how many additional people they sacrifice for more rain, even though it no longer works.

Of course, you may not want to be that mean.

UFOs

Similarly, while most UFO sightings are explained by things like weather balloons and secret military tests, some are unexplained. What if some of those were aliens playing games?

Gold

Drop a nugget of gold in a stream where people will naturally go. Watch them rush around looking for more.

Missing link

You have a world with primates. Take some DNA samples and then seed a more advanced version, skipping some intermediate step. See if they figure out what happened.

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It really depends on how smart the alien is. From your pet description, most “sports” qualify as the same kind of activity.

But maybe they can enjoy a game of chess with the humans, just as we enjoy go fish or skunk with kids.

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought questions about premise of the question was supposed to be asked in the comment section. $\endgroup$ – Martine Votvik Jul 2 '16 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ Good point @MartineVotvik. I edited that part. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 2 '16 at 10:59

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