Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Game"

2.5 stars

Air date: 10/28/1991
Teleplay by Brannon Braga
Story by Susan Sackett & Fred Bronson and Brannon Braga
Directed by Corey Allen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Here's a competent but sometimes hokey little adventure yarn, in which the 24th-century equivalent of an uber-popular and hopelessly trivial cell phone game (an Internet video parody that substituted Angry Birds footage for the Disc-in-Cone game was on to something) becomes the avenue through which the Enterprise (and apparently all of Starfleet) nearly becomes the victim of an alien takeover plot. If only visiting Starfleet Academy cadet Wesley Crusher and his plucky love interest Ensign Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd) hadn't stood in their way!

The game at the center of "The Game" is something Riker brings back from Risa. It's really easy to win ("It practically plays itself," one brainwashed player says), and when you do, you are given a heroin-like high of a reward, leading you to become addicted and wanting more more more, I tell ya. Eventually, the game is playing you, because you are turned into a puppet of the Nameless Aliens' plot, and will do whatever they tell you to.

The problem I have with "The Game" is the same problem I have with many Wesley-oriented stories, and I'll phrase it in the form of a question: Why is it that everyone else aboard the Enterprise is so easily taken in by this ploy while Wesley friggin' Crusher is the only one to ask even a handful of simple questions and spend the three lousy minutes to hook the game up to the computer and run some simple tests to see if it's, y'know, potentially harmful? When the rest of the crew has to look incompetent in order to give Wesley a reason to save the day, I am forced to release a lengthy sigh. I also wasn't sure exactly what level of awareness the brainwashed crew members had while under the influence of Disc-in-Cone. They sure seem normal (except, of course, when they don't).

It's too bad, because if you grant the episode it's implausible premise, the story execution mostly works. Wesley and Robin work well together as clue-chasers and problems-solvers in the vintage TNG tradition, the story is nicely paced, and I enjoyed the way the walls slowly closed in on Wesley at the end (until ultimately, crew members are holding him down, prying open his eyelids, and forcing the game upon him). Wesley is saved by what I'd be tempted to call a "Data ex machina" if not for the fact that it's clearly established beforehand — by the ever-clever Wesley himself, of course.

Previous episode: Disaster
Next episode: Unification

◄ Season Index

91 comments on this review

Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Ashley Judd?
Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
"Ashley Judd?"

The very one.
Tue, Apr 5, 2011, 12:06am (UTC -5)
One of my most disliked shows. It seems to dated, which is easy to do in sci-fi, but is something Star Trek usually managed to avoid. Not here though.
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 10:34am (UTC -5)
No more than 1 star from me! The alien threat/conspiracy story is simplistic and for one more time wesley Crusher is so smart that he understands everything and the others are just so stupid that they understand nothing! oh please!
Thu, Apr 7, 2011, 3:18pm (UTC -5)
"The game at the center of "The Game" is something Riker brings back from Risa. It's really easy to win ("It practically plays itself," one brainwashed player says), and when you do, you are given a heroin-like high of a reward, leading you to become addicted and wanting more more more, I tell ya. Eventually, the game is playing you, because you are turned into a puppet of the Nameless Aliens' plot, and will do whatever they tell you to."

I find this description, funny, as it's almost like how some people eventually become, seeking out achievements in video games nowadays, continuously playing till they get that Bleep-Bloop. Jammer, I think you've uncovered Microsoft's secret plan! =P
Vladimir Estragon
Sat, Apr 23, 2011, 8:46am (UTC -5)
And would someone care to explain how LaForge got taken in by this?
Sat, May 14, 2011, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
I really *really* have to say that Ashley Judd look SO cute here :)

I remember being in geek love when I first saw this episode a long time ago.
Tue, Jul 5, 2011, 10:04am (UTC -5)
I have always liked this episode for some reason. Maybe it is that it is pretty creepy. I can even buy Wesley not being taken in by the game, because he is a visitor, and wants to do more with his vacation than play a game. And based on how it got around (starting with Ryker, Troi, and Crusher, three of the most trustworthy crew members), I will buy that no one else looked into the nature of the game. It does have the improbable notion that Wes could find and repair Data when LaForge could not.

I do agree that Ashley Judd is super cute, which helps.
Wed, Aug 3, 2011, 10:56am (UTC -5)
I hate this episode with a passion because the script requires Wesley to be stupid. Why did he or Robin not leave the fake game glasses on to fool the other crew members?
Thu, Aug 4, 2011, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
It's bad enough when Wesley's makes a visit to the show but he just happens to save the Enterprise yet again at the very same time, it's too much!

And how likely is it that when confronted by what appears to be a simple game, a kid is going to take it apart to see how it works before even trying to play it first?

And is it my imagination or is Wesley equally adept in physics, engineering, and now apparently, advanced robotics too?!
Thu, Sep 8, 2011, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
Afraid I have to agree with other commenters. I wouldn't give this one more than 1 star at the MOST. Why does everyone other than Wesley get hooked on this thing? Other than his apparent god-like abilities which are cemented by Journey's End practically turning him into a god literally, there is no good reason why he and a random ensign would not succumb. Do you REALLY believe ANYONE could get Picard to play... a game?! Not without holding him down; I suppose this is possible, but noone bothers to do it to Wesley until he's the last one left.

This episode would have more credence with me if it WAS something like Heroin. Perhaps the episode is a veiled metaphor for the way druglords can control people with drugs, or perhaps not; but I'd have believed the episode a bit more if the plot device were anything that might plausibly affect Starfleet officers. To peolpe who play 3D chess because regular chess became to boring, I can't imagine anyone seeing the "rush" that people have while playing this game and not find it so odd as to hesitate in trying it for themselves.

I just can't get over the fact that everyone is acting so goofy and stupid and yet someone non-affected people are still convinced to try this game? If it's THAT addictive, why hasn't this race attempted to take over anything else with it? or was it just recently invented and the Enterprise was the first target?
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 10:25pm (UTC -5)
As TH indicated, being one of the first few is understandable, but when, say, 50 people are walking around stoned, wouldn't person 51 be suspicious, to say nothing of Person 551? If we assume th logic in this episode, the entirity of a population, even one as large as the UNited Staes, would be drug addicts in short order just because drugs exist.

Also...good catch from Vlad up could Geordi play this game?
Tue, Sep 27, 2011, 4:32am (UTC -5)
I used to love this one but I watched it the other day and it has not aged well. The only thing it has going for it is how sweet Ashley Judd's Robin Lefler is.
Sun, Jan 22, 2012, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
It's hard to believe that Guinan would succomb to this thing...
Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
Geordi can see and he does it from the same part of his head that everyone else does, so, I see no reason why he couldn't play this game. Also, those who think Picard would never even think of playing a game are just wrong, or else they never saw him geek out as Dixon Hill.

However I agree that the Wesley-messiah factor is way too high in this episode, although Crusher does a fine job with it.
Sun, May 6, 2012, 6:53pm (UTC -5)
I remember disliking this episode just for depicting a clearly stupid game becoming so popular. Little did I realize. Although in real life it's operant conditioning that did the trick, not doses of space drugs.

Speaking of, maybe Wesley resisted the game so long because he took to heart that lecture about drugs from "Symbiosis."
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 1:36am (UTC -5)
The main problem I have with this episode is the same one I have with any episode where members of the flagship crew of the Federation get duped or otherwise compromised into doing something rouge or dangerous or treasonous: no one is punished or at least demoted or placed under suspicion or has their fitness for duty questioned. At all. Here, Picard and Co. are about to give away the Enterprise after falling for a simple "game" and what do you bet there was any sort of disciplinary investigation about such a colossal failure of judgement? Not much? Me neither.
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode but it is a almost exact copy of one of the other episodes.It was good manly because it didn't go on and on like some of the others did.Why would picard play a simple game to only distract him from his duties!
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
So who was caring for the one-week old Molly O'Brien here? I'm guessing she wasn't addicted to the game, but she did need to be fed and changed.
Cail Corishev
Sun, Dec 16, 2012, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
Seems Starfleet needs to bring back those old public service ads from the early 1900s: "Stay away from her, boys; she might have syphilis!"

The first officer goes to the galaxy's red light district and hooks up with some strange woman (although this appears to be normal behavior, from everything we've seen about Risa), and comes back a junkie. Wonder how he's still on everyone's short list for captain after that.
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
Wesley Crusher's on the way! Here he comes to save the day! ... again ...
William B
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
In the teaser, Riker runs around the room chasing Etana until she throws his communicator out the window. For a moment, he seems genuinely stunned. "I can't believe you did that." And then he gives back in and makes out. This moment probably covers what this episode is "about" (if anything): which is the way pleasure drives can sometimes overwhelm and trump one's sense of duty. The way various characters are introduced to the game play on this theme: Riker introduces the game to Troi when she's giving her speech about the delights of decadent chocolate, for example. The other main seductions into the game we see are Riker's using Geordi's grief and concern for Data against him -- suggesting escapism to deal with his pain; and the extra-creepy scenes in which people try to force the game on Wesley, especially Crusher's trying to push her orgasm-game onto her son (and playing with the toy she was going to get him), which is about the weirdest, sickest thing that has ever been on this show. What's interesting is that the things the adult crew are doing, while not terrible, all do feel like a tiny bit of a perversion of natural, healthy instincts -- Riker's love & sex drive is directed to sleeping with people who end up exploiting him, Troi's food urge manifests in the not-particularly-nutritious chocolate consumption, Geordi's friendly concern over Data leads him to escapism rather than trying to deal with the source of that concern, and there is that Beverly trying to pervert the son's trust in his mother.

All this contrasts with Wesley and Robin's willingness to do and be enthusiastic about hard work, and their engagement in building an actual relationship with actual other people rather than with strangers on Risa or chocolate sundaes. How wholesome are these two? They are so wholesome that Robin turns down Wesley's suggestion that they go get *coffee* and suggests dinner instead -- okay, so that one is a stretch, but you see where I'm going with this. This would be sickening, except that Ashley Judd is the cutest person alive, and Wesley is still recognizably Wesley but just a bit more relaxed with himself. We also learn that the Leflers basically abandoned Robin to herself as a child, which reinforces my feeling that Lefler's 2nd law (and the theme of the episode) really should be "don't trust anyone over 30." Despite her veneer of cynicism, Robin shares with Wesley a playfulness and work ethic and even idealism that makes them a good match (and a surprisingly effective love story, considering that the last time they tried a Wesley romance was "The Dauphin"); the two represent the best of youth in this story, and while kids are usually the ones associated with getting hooked on video games, it makes (a tiny bit of) sense that it's the young who can look with fresh eyes when adults starts taking their cues from each other and lazily accept their own failures. And I keep coming back to that last scene, Wesley being held down and forced into a world he doesn't want, like this is some version of that Fleischer brothers cartoon "Bimbo's Initiation" where being an adult means passing through into a seedy, kind of disgusting conspiracy of an adult world where there are no rules anymore. If you think this is too far to take this episode -- and I'm not convinced it isn't -- try for a second to imagine Wesley in Riker's place on Risa in the first scene, and maybe you'll see what I mean. Because he got Data reactivated, Wesley mostly manages to get through this episode with his innocence in tact and restores the adults to their thinking selves; his real loss-of-innocence, dealt with in tragedy rather than this episode's dreamy horror-comedy, is later in this season.

So! This episode is probably terrible, and I groaned through many of the scenes. As with most Wesley-saves-the-day episodes, the crew has to be put down to push Wesley up; Geordi's playing a game when he should be working on bringing Data out of a permanent-coma is probably the most ridiculous individual bit of characterization, but generally the idea that no one on the whole ship was capable of asking the simple questions Wesley and Robin come up with means that the whole crew was basically put out of character. And if it's possible to take over the flagship's Federation with this device, why are these people not basically running the galaxy? And yet, there is something primally effective about the idea that the whole world has gone crazy and that only the youngest ones are able to see it. Were it not for Lefler, this would be nothing but a Mary Sue story, but as it is it's a Mary Sue story that also has something like resonance. The dialogue is sharp and the chase at the episode's end is really thrilling. It really only barely seems to be in the show's actual universe, anyway, with Riker, Troi, etc. playing mostly as distorted, id-driven versions of themselves even before they get hooked on the game. But if (a big if) you can accept all that, view it as a weird horror allegory in which only Wesley and Robin (and I suppose Data) are "real," it's actually kind of good. I don't quite, but I agree with Jammer's 2.5 star rating (though probably for different reasons).
Sat, Aug 17, 2013, 10:31am (UTC -5)
Troi makes me hate ice cream! She is just the worst.

What baffles me is not that Wesley is so smart, we already knew that, it's that he automatically says, "Let's analyze the game!" Rather than just try one out. An all too convenient leap of logic.

Speaking of convenient, it was the captain of the alien ship that seduced Riker? I guess they saved money on making a costume for a different alien.

Coming right after the episode where Jordi gets reprogrammed the theme seems a little redundant.

Reminds me of the old story about monkeys with a device implanted in the pleasure center of their brain. They have two buttons, one gives them food the other gives them an orgasm. The monkeys starve to death. I hear this story over and over but I wonder if it is just a myth.
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
The entire star and a half that I give this episode is entirely due to Data's hilarious fake laugh. Chop it out and it's zero stars.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Am I the only one who felt a little disconfort at times watching those orgasm-like rewards? I was like: get a room... Lol.
Damon Sweeney
Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 3:15am (UTC -5)
This is a brilliant episode. I found the plot was strong and the mystery interesting, the action sequences were also excellent. It explored the character of Wesley very well also and was a genuinely humorous 3episode at times.

On my scale of grading, which is A+ (The Best) to G-(The Worst), I gave "The Game" a "B." I thought it was very good, a highly underrated episode in my opinion.

On Jammers grading system I would give this episode a strong three stars out of four.
Fri, May 30, 2014, 5:38pm (UTC -5)
Ugh. This episode has two critical flaws that kills the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing. I could probably survive one of them, but both? It really hurts this episode, far more tan the whole "Wesley saves the day yet again" bit.

1) Clarke's theorem that any sufficiently advanced technology would seem like magic doesn't apply here. I don't care how sufficient it is, that game was magic. The Romulans spent a week with Geordi strapped to a chair, could only perform their brainwashing on him, and still needed a jolt of doodad rays every now and then to keep him in line. And even then, he only mostly acted normal when brainwashed. Yet, this game? One zap and you are perfectly brainwashed. You don't need to be told what to do, you don't need to be programmed. It works on any species instantaneously. And you act perfectly normal the entire time you are brainwashed. Very, very convenient. As others have said, how have they already not taken over the universe with this technology? And it can all be wiped away with a strobe light?

2) Even if you accept that (and admittedly, a few episodes later we get Conundrum, which I think does ok with such magical tech), the crew succumbing to the game so easily is rather contrived. OK, so Riker giving it to Troi made sense, as did Troi giving it to Bev. But then we see Bev creepily trying to push the game on her son in a scene that clearly show how wrong the game is. And we see Riker inappropriately pushing the game on LaForge after Data crashed. It's no wonder we don't see any attempt to get Picard or Worf into the game. Can you seriously imagine Worf getting addicted? The guy who's first instinct is to blow everything up? The guy who's reaction to going to a bar with his brother is to tell everyone to stop having fun? Yeah, I doubt a warrior would play Candy Crush. And Picard? The guy who refuses to go on vacation? The no-nonsense captain? Only Bev or Riker would have enough familiarity with him to suggest it, but does anyone really think the guy who loves Shakespeare and archaeology would play a simple game?

Given that, the episode (which is ok, as far as that goes) was hard to swallow.

Besides, there was another option that might have been fun to explore. It would admittedly eliminate any moral of the story regarding videogames or pleasures or whatever, but given how the story turned out it was basically a space whale aesop anyway. But anyways, why not replace the silly game concept with the silly bugs from Conspiracy? They are already established and set up for a sequel, why not do them instead? How about having Wesley come aboard while the bugs are halfway to taking over the ship? Wesley could come aboard, could hear from Robin that something is wrong, and then try to figure out what's going on and who hasn't been converted yet. Might have been a better story than what we have.

Besides, then the innuendo of Riker bringing back something from Risa would be even more funny with a parasite!
Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 3:21am (UTC -5)
I don't get why they insisted on putting Wesley back into the show even for just this episode after having put him on a bus. Were they testing the waters for the next season? Why is he so important they had to constantly try to validate his 'Sueness'?
I wouldn't even mind so much if that didn't turn all the other officers into brainless incompetents. Fine, let Wesley be awesome. But not at the expense of the other characters.
Come on, it wasn't even a common, innocuous looking game, it was a fishy device that evidently fiddled with your brain, through your eyes (?!). And also it came from an unknown alien. It's not only weird because we're talking about the crew of a starship - scratch that, the starship. They're f*cking human beings with brains, excuse the expression.
That's pretty much the basics of Mary Sueing. Then there are the people at the academy aparently liking Wesley, in spite of, if not actually because of, having served on the Enterprise per recommandation. And then the nth attempt of getting him a hot gf.
I don't like bashing on characters, I swear. But this episode really threw me off because of it, probably because it was enjoyable otherwise. A good storyline, as opposed to some of the rest of the season. It's also surprisingly, maybe increasingly, actual; I'm talking about the addiction to the game obviously. If only...
Kevin Mc
Tue, Sep 2, 2014, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Once again, Riker's penis causes galactic ramifications for the Federation.
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
SkepticalMI kind of said it all as to why this episode sucks. I was rolling my eyes almost the entire episode, exclaiming, "But video games don't work like that at all, and even hard drugs don't play with your ethical reasoning right away. Serotonin spikes alone ain't gonna do that!" I also though Lefler suddenly getting addicted at the end of the episode was lame - but I guess if both of them were captured, then Wesley wouldn't be as effectively isolated and repressed for story-purposes.

What's ironic: All the older adults get addicted RIGHT AWAY, but two kids who are barely out of their teens DON'T? Uh huh.

Also also: Sure, Geordi can see, but how are they supposed to hook that game up to his VISOR-connecting implants? Even if he had his VISOR on, how would the game fit his head properly? And I get the impression that the game's "rays" go directly through the pupil to the brain. How is the VISOR supposed to pick up that information the same way? Also, if Geordi was able to "see" the game, would its data necessarily be formatted properly to look like saucers and cones? That's a few too many leaps for me.

I think this episode would have been a little bit better if Geordi had been incapacitated in sickbay from an "accident", only to be ironically revived once no one was keeping him sedated. Then maybe his VISOR is disabled, and he has to tell Wesley what to do, step by step. That would have been more plausible.

The good parts of this episode were: Wesley coming home and getting that surprise party; his conversation with Picard about the Academy and Boothby; and his "smooth" moves on Lefler (or should I say, her smooth moves on HIM, plus their goodbye at the end. Those were actually GOOD Wesley moments - good character development. But him as the Boy Wonder saving the day again - AGAIN? How cliche and dull. Except for his capture at the end - that was nicely done, very "A Clockwork Orange".
Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
** I mean that LaForge would tell Wesley how to fix Data, step by step.
Jack O
Fri, Oct 3, 2014, 6:33am (UTC -5)
What is it with Risa anyway, is it a kind of brothel? Everyone that goes there is having sex with someone he or she has never met before, or is al least supposed to do that.

And then Wesley, a total different story. Normal guys his age would like to be in bed with a cute sexy girl like Robin ASAP, but not Wesley. He wants to study some technical details with her.
Mon, Oct 13, 2014, 5:38pm (UTC -5)
When I saw this episode as a kid I thought it was awesome. Probably because as a kid I identified with Wesley, and also the part where he manages to avoid escape for a while seemed pretty exciting, and then Data comes out of nowhere and saves the day. Also. . . Ashley Judd.

Now watching this as 34 year old. . .. It's pretty flawed.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
I still like this episode. It feels realistic to me, especially using the reward system of the brain as a method of mind control. Depicts a valid underhanded way to take over the Enterprise/Federation. I can fully understand why Wesley would rather date 20 something Ashley Judd rather than play some new fad game. By the time he started considering trying it his intuition was buzzing about something not being quite right about it and in Wesley fashion do an experiment and hook it to a simulator. The chase scene and creepy forced "feeding" after Wesley got caught were well done.
I know a lot of fans don't like Wesley and also don't like Wesley saves the ship. This episode in particular is robust and doesn't bother me.
mcoy, leonard mcoy
Tue, Jun 30, 2015, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
Ashely Judd looked really young here. She's still wife material. Not a g/f or anything of that matter. Just straight up put a ring on that woman. Average episode though.
Fri, Jul 31, 2015, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
Wesley Wesley Crusher, Where are you?
We've got some work to do now.

Wesley Wesley Crusher, Where are you?
We need some help from you now.

Come on, Wesley Crusher, I see you
pretending you've got a game.

But you're not foolin' me, cause I can see
the way you fake that shiver.

You know we've got a mystery to solve so Wesley Crusher be ready for your act.
Don't hold back!

And Wesley Crusher if you come through you're gonna have yourself a Lefler Snack!
That's a fact!

Wesley Wesley Crusher, here are you.
You're ready and you're willing.

If we can count on you, Wesley Crusher,
I know we'll catch that villain!


Seriously folks, this is a "Scooby Doo" episode masquerading as a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode. It might as well of ended with an exchange like - "Why, it's Etana! The woman Riker was awkwardly frolicking with on Risa." "That's right! And I would have conquered the Federation if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"

Good grief, did we honestly need yet another "Wesley saves the day" episode? This time it's so bad that they literally have the entire rest of the crew brainwashed and villainous in order to make Wesley look good. Even the love interest character succumbs to the "make-Wesley-AWESOME!-at-everyone's-expense" cliche. I said it my comments on "Final Mission" and I'll say it again - "We get it, Wesley is awesome. But people, it is of paramount importance that as you feverishly fellate this character until he leaves a gland-shaped impression on your tonsils, you occasionally come up for god-damn air!"

I'm just going to skip over the technical problems with how the game works because, quite frankly, I don't care. Instead, I going to focus on something this episode does make me care about - why the hell is Robin Lefler interested in Wesley Freakin' Crusher?! Not only is she played by Ashley Judd (which means on a scale of 1 to 10 in the beauty department she's OVER FUCKING 9000!!!!!) but she's also warm, outgoing, intelligent, compassionate, self-less, etc. This woman is the catch of the millennium! And she's so interested in Wesley (who, by the way, has to be at least five years YOUNGER than her) that she's got friends at the Academy keeping tabs on him?! I just don't get it. I mean, for crying out loud, his idea of a first date is to show up late and then take her to a science lab to perform experiments on a new video game. But, hey, she's into it all, for some reason. I guess there's no accounting for taste. Where the hell can I find a woman like this?!

There are some intriguing moments on display here, but that's all they are - moments. They're moments like when we see Picard put on the game and when Data first emerges from the the turbolift (that is, before he starts with his strobe light nonsense). Okay, good attention grabbing moments, even if they only last for a few seconds. The problem is that what they're surrounded with is rather.... well.... boring. I was shocked when the first act ended and so little had actually happened. The only legitimately enjoyable part is the final chase through the Enterprise sequence. There is an true sense of suspense to it. But, I can honestly say the same thing about most "Scooby Doo" episodes. Other than that and those few, brief moments, "The Game" never really held my interest.

They should have left well-enough alone and kept Wesley off the show. *sigh*

Sat, Aug 1, 2015, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
You all are being too tough on Wesley. I'm not a fan of him saving the day (who is?) but in this particular case, it actually works pretty well. The things he does when he's running from the entire crew are all very Wesley Crusher type things, like the site to site transporters and the phaser pulse into force field. Ashley Judd being cute as hell definitely helped too. To me the episode is pretty fun. I give this episode 2.5 outta 4 stars.
Sat, Aug 15, 2015, 5:45pm (UTC -5)
I tend to agree with Pat - my problem with this episode was definitely not Wesley. I actually rather enjoyed Wesley in this one - his conversation with Data at the beginning of the episode was amusing, and his interactions with Robin were entertaining and often adorable.

What frustrates me most about this episode is that for once, a Wesley-saves-the-day plotline *could* have played out in a plausible way, based on the premise that if some addictive, brain-washing device/substance/activity were spreading on-board the Enterprise, it would be more noticeable and alarming to an outsider arriving suddenly than to those who had gradually grown accustomed. Furthermore, I felt that the "solution" to the brain-washing was actually well-handled; Wesley knew enough to analyze the problem and to repair Data, and Data handled the saving-the-day from there.

For me the problem was in the details of the addictive, brain-washing device/activity - "the game." Like some other commenters, I really don't understand how Picard was convinced to play, unless Riker, Troi, and Beverly pinned him down (in which case I wish we could have actually seen that scene...). Also, as Jay points out, "being one of the first few [to play] is understandable, but when, say, 50 people are walking around stoned, wouldn't person 51 be suspicious, to say nothing of Person 51?"

In short, if Etana had used a less moronic method of mind-control so that I could reasonably buy the whole crew falling for it, I would totally buy Wesley coming in as an outsider, recognizing a problem, repairing Data, and thus indirectly (!) saving the day.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 4:31pm (UTC -5)
OK, it's a hokey story-line, the practicality of which is sorely open to question., and we never quite learn what the actual point is. We also are immediately thrown out of the story by the now horribly ancient looking game effects. But that said, this is a fun if inconsequential hour.

The relationship between Wesley and Lefler is nicely played and credible enough, and there is an appropriately Invasion of the Body Snatchers type atmosphere as everyone else falls prey to the game. There is even some tension as the net closes in on Wesley. Data's hero entrance at the end is worthy of any highlights reel.

And if nothing else, the moment where Wesley walks in on his mother, um... pleasuring herself is an eye opener and not the sort of thing you see on TNG every day... 2.5 stars.
Mon, Nov 9, 2015, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
If "Unification" was indicative of the kind of stories DS9 would be telling, then "The Game" is indicative of the kind of forgettable fluff pieces (with questionable logic) that Voyager would be putting out for most of its run.

But in some ways, it's also reminiscent of TNG's first season, what with all the adults needing to act like dolts in order for Wesley to be able to save the day (I guess he came back just in time...)
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 5:34pm (UTC -5)
So I recently watched this episode for probably the 100th time, and I'm trying to figure out how a blind man -LaForge- could have been brainwashed. Without the visor, he's blind, and adding the Game doesn't automatically make him see. We know the visor needs to send flashes in the eyes to work, that's basically HOW it works. I doubt the game would be attenuated to his Visor, and I doubt his visor can create the same effects as the game itself. It doesn't add up.
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
The ice cream scene with Troi felt like it was a thinly veiled metaphor for oral sex? The way it was edited, especially the shots of Riker reacting to Troi's description of how she would handle his peni- sorry, her ice cream was a bit our of left field, no? What was its purpose? Anyone?
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Well the episode is about cravings and satisfaction so the ice cream scene was to emphasize the feelings people have in indulging. It also ups the ante when Riker calls the game "better than chocolate".

But hey, sex fits with the whole craving and desire motif so if you want to read that way more Freudian power to you.
Wed, Jul 13, 2016, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
I'd give it 2 stars if only for Ashley Judd, clearly the cutest officer in a Starfleet uniform. This was the only time I actually envied Wesley Crusher because he got to hug and kiss her. Yum!
Sun, Jul 17, 2016, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
Pokemon Go. :)

Google Glass too...
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 8:46pm (UTC -5)
The episode is mostly terrible, but somehow manages to hold the attention all the way through. I actually give Wheaton and Judd the credit because I think they were a charming and believable pair. Two things annoyed me enough that it bothered me:

1. The "brainwash" effect the game has on the crew works purely in service of the plot and in an "on demand" fashion. Worf, for example, is never shown playing the game. He acts 100% of the time as though everything is normal, and while trying to capture Wesley its as though he were just another intruder or whatever - Riker is the same during these scenes.

2. The scene where Wesley and Robin hook the game up to the computer is just cringe-worthy due to Wesley's constant leaning over her. Give the lady a bit of space you maniac!

Ashley Judd alone gives this episode a star, another half for a good performance by Wheaton.
Mon, Aug 29, 2016, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
I see Leffler and Crusher as two very high-functioning autistic people with a high-degree of social awkwardness, which would make sense how the whole game thing kind of missed them until it they were the only ones left not hooked. The two of them play well off each others quirks, but I sense zero chemistry. They both read as asexual to me.
Thu, Sep 22, 2016, 9:07am (UTC -5)
I liked this episode quite a bit.

* I hate "Wesley saves the day" scripts, but this wasn't one. Wesley didn't save the day. Wesley made it possible for DATA to save the day. An important difference.

* I thought the final chase sequence played Wesley's intelligence well. He was smart and resourceful enough to evade the Enteprise crew ... for a while. They caught him, but he made them work for it. It showcased his intelligence without making the ENT crew look like boobs.

* I can buy the idea that Wesley looked at the game, but others didn't. As another person remarked, Crusher and Riker -- two very trustworthy folks -- introduced the game to the rest of the crew. So they might take it with a grain of salt. And this wouldn't be the first game in the future that had a little bit of a pleasure effect ... maybe it didn't seem that unusual at first.

* I can buy Wesley deconstructing the game when other's didn't. He was on vacation, he had spare time, and he had no other duties. Besides, he's a nerd.
Baron Samedi
Thu, Sep 22, 2016, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
@pennywit I agree completely, this was always one of my favorite episodes. Only it and "The First Duty" come to mind as episodes where every element of a Wesley story "clicked" into place nearly perfectly. Wheaton and Ashley Judd had surprisingly good chemistry and the end chase scene is very fun - it shows Wesley being clever enough to pull off a few nifty tricks but also being captured at the end, which I makes it all believable and exciting.
Sun, Nov 20, 2016, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
I'm surprised that nobody has figured out the obvious - that Picard and Worf in all likelihood were forced into the game, rather than playing it voluntarily. Like Data, these two were probably seen as the biggest obstacles and so would have been targeted very quickly. In the case of Worf, it's likely that Crusher had to sneak up and inject him with some sort of paralysing agent - which would keep him conscious but unable to move.
Kerr Avon
Mon, Dec 26, 2016, 6:53am (UTC -5)
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" meets "Brain Damage". With a little nod to "A Clockwork Orange" at the end.
Sat, Dec 31, 2016, 6:26am (UTC -5)
A pretty similar concept that predates this episode was shown in Red Dwarf, in a single episode subsequently expanded on significantly in the novel "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers". The crew gets hold of a game in the form of a headset that implants directly into the brain and leaves the players helplessly addicted - so much so that they are essentially crack addicts who would have died if not tended to by Kryten.

I mention this partly because "The Game" brought the Red Dwarf idea to my mind, but also because I recall an interview Patrick Stewart gave about RD. Now I think Stewart is a legend and not just for his TNG work, but in this interview he slightly moronically describes his first experience of RD, unexpectedly flicking the channel onto an episode and his immediate reaction was to pick up the phone to get onto a lawyer because he thought that RD was ripping off Star Trek. Anybody who has seen Red Dwarf will know how ludicrous that notion is. To be fair to Stewart he did then say that he started laughing and put the phone down when he saw what the show was actually about.
Jason R.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:58am (UTC -5)
I liked this episode. It is a brainless bit of fun. Of course the premise is laughable - if the device can instantly brainwash someone on the first go (as it clearly does given how immediately Judd turns on Wesley) then what is the point of the narcotic effect? Why bother addicting the crew to it if it takes absolute control of them on the first use?

And yeah, bullshit on Picard, let alone Worf ever picking up this doodad.
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 12:18am (UTC -5)
Sometimes I wonder how the idiotic Enterprise crew would ever survive without Data and Wesley to save the day. In all seriousness I found it implausible that no one besides Wesley even thought to ask questions before trying it. Beverly's always been incompetent so it's not a stretch to think she didn't, or that Riker forced it on her, but surely someone else would have? Geordi? How would the game even work on him if he's blind? Giving Wesley more than one other crew member working with him would have made this episode better, IMO.

Im once again struck by how normal and not weird Wesley's romances are in comparison to the other characters'. It's pretty sad that Wesley seems to be the only male character with normal romantic relationships. Looks like he really is the only one who doesn't have to find his women on the holodeck.

A highlight of this episode is Beverly forcing her kid to do drugs. That image alone makes the episode worth it.

They really ned to stop letting Riker vacation on Risa. This time he brought back more than just another case of space-AIDS.
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 12:44am (UTC -5)
**Troi gave the headset to Beverly, nevermind. They don't seem to hang out much except to talk about their sexual conquests so it's actually very fitting Troi gave the orgasm game to Beverly. I still question why Geordi would be susceptible to it, though.
Tue, Mar 28, 2017, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
I would like to thank outsider65 for the above comments, which are the possibly the funniest comments ever written about any episode. Bravo, 65!
Fri, Apr 28, 2017, 8:24pm (UTC -5)
I always liked the obvious implications of "The Game" in modern society......just look around, everyone desperately staring at their smartphones, addicted to the quick highs and instant gratification of texting and games.

The problem with "The Game" is that they should have introduced it much more slowly, just like smartphones, so that by the time people caught on to what was occurring it had already overtaken society's social norms. At that point, it's not only built into the culture but also a 'social status' symbol, because heaven forbid someone catches you NOT looking at your phone and thinks you're unpopular.

Thanks for finally saying it out loud, Outsider65. I think the turbo lift scene basically told us exactly what the game gives people for completing higher levels and giving up control of their own mind. In that sense, it is actually a pretty bizarre scene when Beverly wants her own son to partake of the device.

What I always enjoyed about the episode was Wesley's brilliant play at misdirection, meaning that the entire chase sequence was simply done to give Data enough time to study the device and come up with a cure. I thought this was well written, particularly when it came to Data's entrance onto the bridge when it seemed Wesley was the only normal one left onboard.
Tue, May 16, 2017, 10:11am (UTC -5)
With Data incapacitated, I wonder just how many people it took to hold Worf down to force him to play the game. Maybe they fooled him by saying it was VR Klingon calisthenics, and he had to make discs fall into the cones to get the program to run. :-p
Wed, Jul 5, 2017, 1:26am (UTC -5)
The aliens aren't nameless--they're kitary (rimes with atari, get it?).
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
2 stars. This didn't age well at all. I tried blotting out the fact that Ashley Judd is so annoying nowadays and still tried enjoying this episode but it still took too long. The first half felt like spinning wheels. I wasn't feeling Wes and lefler. The sundae scene with Troi left me cold. It wasn't until data was deactivated and We'd begab investugating the game that it picked. There was smart planning ahead with Wes as crew came after him and this section generated some tension. Too bad the first half wasn't as good
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
Not a fan of this episode -- plenty of slow parts in the early going, but seeing a young Ashley Judd and the chase scene where Worf/Riker finally catch Wesley are the 2 highlights.

It's a bit of a stretch for me to believe such a simplistic game (not talking about the graphics not aging well) could overwhelm an entire starship and I agree with Jammer on why it's only Wesley who has some healthy skepticism about it and he winds up saving the day. We've seen this type of idiocy before where he looks like the hero and the entire Enterprise crew look like dolts. That's not a good recipe for an episode, period.

The romance between Lefler and Wesley was portrayed well and it appeared to be natural as if it could happen for real. So that was believable and it worked that they initially go about trying to figure out what's going on. But overall, it's kind of silly with Data showing up right on time to start flashing some light that instantly cures them.

"The Game" just barely makes it to 2 stars for me. It's bordering on being a lousy episode because of its weak premise/plot. No issue with seeing Wesley again, but we're back to early TNG stuff where he's unexplainably the hero. Good chemistry between Judd/Wheaton saved this episode from condemnation.
Thu, Sep 14, 2017, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Something nobody seemed to note above: the exploration of the Phoenix cluster which was so important that the scientists all over the ship were fighting for access to analytical equipment just...disappears. No mention of it by Picard at the end ("We towed the alien vessel to a starship and are on the way to drop Wesley off."). No mention by anyone after the brainwashing. Disappointing.

I don't hate Wesley as much as Jammer and most others seem to. The plot pairing him with Ensign Leffler worked, I think. Clearly an outdated and clumsy episode, I don't think I have much to add to the comments above. 2 stars for me.
Thu, Sep 14, 2017, 11:57am (UTC -5)

That's an interesting point, although it's a bit of a "What about the mouse?" thought if you will. Having Geordi and everyone under pressure from the mission did at least serve two purposes: 1) It made the crew on edge and more receptive to the game and 2) it gave Geordi a chance to boast about Ensign Leffler because he needed a competent science officer to help with demands of the scientists.

Anyway, I just wanted to add that while Jammer calls this one close to being a Deus Ex Machina, it's established early that Data would be a threat to the Ktarian's plan and that Wesley knew Data has been deactivated. If anything, I might call the ending anticlimactic, but I think the fast paced chase leading to the final resolution helped it out. Very much an "Invasion by the Body Snatchers" type of ending.
Thu, Nov 2, 2017, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Ham-handed attempt at moralizing against video game & drug addiction. Meh. 1/5. Also knowing what Ashley Judd turned into(rabid leftist loonie), takes away from the enjoyment of the episode.
Derek D
Mon, Dec 25, 2017, 7:15pm (UTC -5)
Episode: 2 1/2 stars
Lefler/Judd: 5 stars
Sat, Feb 24, 2018, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
TNG was good at tackling addictions and the way technology is abused and used to evade reality. With smartphone, internet, video games, binge TV and other mass media addictions being common place today, "The Game" feels much more relevant now than it did decades ago. I think it is a fun and creepy episode.

I also think the reason it generates hate is because people are taking it too seriously. To me, it clearly seems modelled on all those 1980s kids adventures, be they sleazy like Brian Depalma's Dressed to Kill, or sanitized like Matthew Broderick's Wargames, in which geeky teenage boys save the day with a cute female sidekick in tow. The episode is a giant kid's fantasy adventure.
Peter G.
Sat, Feb 24, 2018, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Trent, that's always how I felt the energy of the episode. It's always been a 'great fun to watch' episode, up there with Disaster and Conundrum in terms of the general tenor of the show being offbeat and a cool adventure.
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 10:08am (UTC -5)
I like this one a lot too. It's different, engaging and really well-paced, and uses Wesley (plus Ensign Lefler) in a way that really works.
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
The episode also seems to go a long way into implying that sex, love and lust are themselves dopamine addictions. Crusher's love affair with Lefler provokes in him the same biochemical bursts as Troi's chocolate and Riker's Risa mistress, and the Game itself is very phallic, with pulsating dics entering probosis like mushrooms and then releasing orgasmic shudders. The fancy techno-addictions in the episode are really just layered upon humans who are prone to all kinds of more mudane bio-mechanical addictions .
Sun, May 20, 2018, 3:11am (UTC -5)
Wesley being the last one actually really does make sense, as a couple have said.

He’s on a vacation that’s quite a lengthy trip for him and he would not want to play a silly game which he could do at home. And they didn’t force him until the end because he didn’t really seem like a risk.

Picard probably WAS forced by Riker/Worf etc.

I was more annoyed by the Data ex Machina ending because it seemed dishonest. Wesley is running around being chased in full panic mode with nary a hint they had actually fixed Data.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Riker's shexual shenaniganshs strike again!

For no other reason than Ashley Judd/Ensign Robin, this is a noteworthy episode! She was adorable in the role.
Ari Paul
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Oh yeah!!! Ashley Judd before she went insane. Smokin. Def. would have smashed that.
Wed, Aug 1, 2018, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
A bad start as Riker is acting like an annoying horny teenager again.

Having the entire crew brainwashed. subborned or possessed worked well in the old pocket books TOS novels but it was a cliche by the time of TNG.
The crew is too easily ensnared but as noted before TNG often turns into a seventies porn movie pastiche and that happens here as the crew are all getting off all over the place.
The erotic moment of the series goes to Marina Sirtis describing how she gets off with her sundae while Riker looks on barely containing himself.
Yes ,Marina you have to run the chocolate ice cream around the rim.
I think that is an arrestable offence in several states.
Dark Kirk
Wed, Aug 8, 2018, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
Interesting points by William B. I think Jammer said it best: " if you grant the episode it's implausible premise, the story execution mostly works. " What I really like is that there was no cliche "Mom, I'm your son! Don't do this to me! / Oh my God! That is my son! What am I doing?" There was no: "Listen to me! You have to fight it! Don't give in! Think about what you're doing! / No! I can't give up my ship!" The game completely had them hooked, overriding all survival or parenting instincts. Pretty creepy. TNG would have been a better show if they referenced this adventure later and tied up all these episodes - Geordi's brainwashing to assisinate the Klingon governor /The Game/ maybe the Pegasus adventure / and tied them in to Section 31 or some other grand conspiracy. That's not 1990s television, but it would have been great.
Fri, Aug 31, 2018, 8:10am (UTC -5)
Started off cringe-worthy.

Riker having a romp with a weird alien.
Riker leering at the ensign in Engineering.
Riker grinning at Troi, even though he's probably already had 10 other women that day.
Troi getting intimate with her ice cream--seriously, are you eating a bowl of dessert, or describing an oral sex trick?
Riker: "I just got back from Risa with something."--yeah, an STD or three, Crusher should be the one you're saying that line to.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
"Actress" Ashley Judd constantly talking with her head and neck instead of her mouth. Creepy chocolate-centric "character development" of Troi. And our episode star: Wesley!! What's not to love about "The Game"?! Remember Law 17: When all else fails, watch a better episode.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Several have commented on how it's difficult to enjoy this episode now, knowing how Ashley has morphed into an unhinged Socialist radical. I wonder if there was something in the water on the set, for I have witnessed----and in the case of Marina, it was my own one-to-one interactions with her on twitter---several of the cast members, including Patrick, Wil, Brent, and, famously, the always-irate bullfrog who, perhaps like no one else in the country, gives Ashley's deranged malignant narcissism a run for its money: Whoopi, have become outspoken Leftist lunatics.

Most actors are weirdos. That's obvious. The childhood rejection that drives them to want to spend the rest of their lives playing dress-up and pretending that they're someone---*anyone*!!---else is what leads them into the career in the first place. But the TNG cast takes the cake.
Peter G.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
Speaking of narcissism...
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Yes, of course, Peter G: everything that a radical Leftist doesn't like hearing is summarily dismissed as narcissism.

Or racism. ...But definitely *some* ism.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
I don't even know what I am politically anymore (left, right or whatever) but I do know that if you find an episode less good because of an actor's politics or beliefs, you're not judging it as drama but on extraneous factors. Back in the 90s/2000s when I was more left-wing, I enjoyed watching the whole of Babylon 5 and it never once bothered me that Jerry Doyle was also a right-wing talk show host - in fact I considered him the best actor on the show. And Michael Pena is fantastic in the Ant-Man films whether or not you like the fact he's a Scientologist. I thought it was the young "snowflake" leftists that everyone mocks these days for constantly declaring people "problematic" or "over" and blacklisting/no-platforming them for their views - yet now people on the right are doing the same thing? Slating a 25-year-old TNG episode because of the guest actress's politics is just silly.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 4:45pm (UTC -5)
Wow, an actress got success early in her career and later devoted her life to humanitarian interests like treating AIDs and preventing poverty. What a tragedy...
Ari Paul
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 10:01pm (UTC -5)
"devoted her life to humanitarian interests like treating AIDs and preventing poverty"

this isn;t the tragic part. you can still do the above without a political affiliation...and without going full radical.
Tue, Sep 4, 2018, 10:28pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, Democrat != radical. Coming to a Star Trek board to slam unrelated politics you don’t agree with is just sad. It’s the same nonsense with that other section going off on Dwight Schultz.
Ari Paul
Sat, Sep 15, 2018, 1:58am (UTC -5)
no.... not Democrat. I'd say her insane ramblings about periods at the "Women's march" qualifies as radical.
Ari Paul
Sat, Sep 15, 2018, 1:59am (UTC -5)
Don't get me wrong she's still good looking and I would have sex with her. I'd probably even breed with her, so long as she was always supervised around the children.
Sat, Sep 15, 2018, 8:37am (UTC -5)
Regardless of how you feel about her political opinions, she handled herself well in this episode. That’s all I’m really interested in talking about here.
Sun, Sep 30, 2018, 6:14am (UTC -5)
Apart from the creepy sex references and the shite game graphics a well rounded episode.
.although the whole crew being took over by some weird alien force did get overdone along with visiting ambassador s (yawn).
Their is a lot worse in the ng series.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 3:15am (UTC -5)
Hello Gentle Sentients

@JerJer, perhaps Riker was being shown as more of a randy male because he'd been exposed to the game, which seemed to trigger sexual responses when you "won" the round...

...Nurse Alyssa Ogawa always looked to me like she was having a mini-orgasm when she was in the turbolift...

Now, as far as bringing a STD home, wouldn't the transporter filter that out? And, since we've seen a transporter go back to a earlier version of folks, would that not be the secret of eternal youth? Put a hair into the machine from when you were 24, and have the transporter "fix" you back to then?...

I digress...

Riker was more than his normal "who-hoo" self because of the game. As far as what Troi was describing... even 27 years ago I knew she'd stopped talking about ice cream...

Regards... RT
Brian S.
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 4:17am (UTC -5)
I always enjoyed this episode. It's fun, well acted, and I enjoyed how Wesley was able to evade security.

To me, that last segment always the best "Game" in the episode.....Wesley having to think quickly on his feet, to outwit and elude a vastly superior opponent for as long as he could. His escape required athleticism, intelligence, strategy, read & react situations. Moves and countermoves.

There are some gaping plot holes in this episode (what exactly was the purpose of Elana's efforts?), and I understand the critiques of Wesley in general, but I always liked Wil Wheaton, and this was one of my favorite Wesley episodes.


That said.....there is arguably no greater Wesley Crusher move than to go back to work on the Enterprise during your vacation from Starfleet Academy, somehow manage to hook up with a young smoking hot Ashley Judd, and on basically your one and only date with Ashley freaking Judd, you.....take her to your mom's medical lab to conduct experiments on the potentially harmful side effects of a portable gaming device.

+++++ @ Luke's Scooby Doo parody. That was perfect!
Tue, Apr 16, 2019, 4:20pm (UTC -5)

A nice romance between Wesley and the Ashley Judd ensign. I liked this one for a light adventure highlighting Wesley as completely non annoying.
Fri, Sep 6, 2019, 7:59pm (UTC -5)
Highlight for me is Datas forced 'laugh' when Wesley 'save the Enterprise and crew again but this time with the assistance of the banging hot Ashley Judd' Crusher is suprised in the conference room thing early on in the episode. Worthy of a rewind and watch again several times 😄

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