Being The Dice Man: What Happens When You Live Your Life By Chance

Who were you this weekend?

I was a busker, an artist and a beard fetishist by day and by night, both the life and soul of a party and its dullest guest.

I went places I'd never been before, talked to people I'd never met and offended and amused strangers in equal measure.

But none of it was my fault. I was simply obeying the Dice.

Anyone who caught HuffPost Culture's liveblog on Saturday or followed our Twitter feed will have noticed that we were conducting a live review of Dice Life, a new phone app based on cult novel The Dice Man.

In case you haven't guessed, the aim of the book - and our day - was to explore what would happen if you surrendered your personality and free will to the random roll of a dice.

In the book, the protagonist conducts extramarital affairs, sabotages his career and ultimately founds a cult by giving his every step six options and slavishly obeying whichever one chance chooses for him.

With just a few hours to play with we didn't quite get that far, but we did learn a lot about the benefits and drawbacks of this utterly irresponsible, gloriously anarchic and weirdly addictive approach to life.


It began, tentatively, with my Dice Day partner and I letting the Dice choose what we should have to drink. Mercifully, we were spared a 11am shot of vodka - but then nor did we get the coffee we actually wanted. Sipping on a prim mug of chamomile tea, we quietly contemplated our first experience of losing our free will.

The Dice choose option 5: go 'busking'

From there the Dice decided to put us on a train out of London to Brighton, where we decided to set ourselves tasks that would involve doing things we felt uncomfortable or incapable doing. After all, a dice list made up of sunbathing and buying ice creams wasn't very likely to deliver us to an epiphany about the futility of ego - or make an interesting article.

Within minutes or arriving we therefore found ourselves stood on a packed and pleasantly sun-baked promenade serenading tourists with what could (in most generous terms) be described as a lounge version of 'Barbie Girl' by Aqua.

We stuck with it for a good half hour, attracting the odd delighted teenage choir, the odd derisive snort from passing stags and the odd tut or bemused look from the elderly, who had no doubt seen such nonsense at the seaside many times before. I should add at this point that neither of us had instruments, or indeed the gift of being able to sing in key.


From there we were ordered to set up shop as caricaturists, and succeeding in convincing several people to stop for a free portrait from 'an aspiring artist'.

Real panic set in as, going to draw a picture for first time in twenty years, I found myself gazing up at the innocent, expectant face of a beautiful, blonde 20-something girl and back down again at the haggard, sallow witch I was involuntarily transforming her into.

Open for business...

My Dice partner - a designer by trade - did a far better job, but revealing a piece of paper that essentially screams 'YOU HAVE AN UGLY FACE' to a complete stranger was not an enjoyable experience for either of us, even though most people took it in good humour.

...two (sort of) happy customers


Next the Dice decreed that I confront an insecurity I have about myself: namely, that at the age of 27 I still can't grow a beard. To do this I had to approach a succession of men with splendid facial fuzz, confess my jealousy and ask them all about life as bearded men.

Excruciating of course - particularly when one guy mistook me a pervert of a truly niche variety - but oddly cathartic. A lovely chap called Richard told me he grew his beard to compensate for going bald in his thirties, and ordered me to be grateful for what I had on my head. Perspective is a funny thing. I hadn't even noticed he was bald.

Richard, 36, has a beard


There is far more though to Dice Life than just doing silly things at the seaside. In the novel, Luke (the protagonist) uses the Dice to deconstruct his whole character and adopt new personas and attitudes in public life - much to the bemusement of his friends and family.

With a party to attend way back in London, we decided to take Dice Day into a more psychological realm. This is where being The Dice Man got tricky.

  1. Excessively complimentary would-be wooer
  2. Arrogant and utterly self-regarding
  3. Positive, about absolutely everything
  4. Negative, in the same sense
  5. Incredibly serious and determined to bring every conversation back to somber topics
  6. Obsessive about something of the dice's choosing

These were the personas we rotated, at hourly intervals, as we socialised around a busy party held in a home in North London.

There were low moments. Trying to find the positives in Bashar al-Assad's human rights record and insisting everyone stop talking about the opening ceremony of the Olympics and focus on George Osborne's economic woes endeared me to few.

But if chopping and changing my personality left others non-plussed or irritated, for me, it was rather thrilling.

Most of us have an amiable version of ourselves that we slip on like a pair of slippers when out and about socialising, encompassing familiar topics, tried and tested anecdotes and a personal version of what it takes to make others feel good.

The Dice strips most of this away, making conversation less comfortable but equally, far less predictable. It wasn't a case of acting or being disingenuous, more tapping into aspects of my psyche I rarely use in social situations and giving them a run out.


So having done a fairly good job of convincing the people of Brighton and the guests at a party in North London that I'm crazy, was living by the Dice a worthwhile experiment?

Here's six reasons why I'd say it is, if only for a day or two now and then rather than a whole lifetime.

  1. We don't go out and explore enough
  2. We don't do enough things that scare us
  3. We should talk to more strangers
  4. We shouldn't get too set in our ways
  5. We shouldn't take life too seriously
  6. We ought to have more fun

Roll any of these options, and you'd have a good reason to download Dice Life to your iPhone, find a good friend, and set aside a day to surrender that most frivolous and fleeting of things - your life - to the chuckling Gods of chance.