What Game Are You Playing?

In his book ‘Finite and Infinite Games’, James Carse distinguishes between two types of ‘game’.

Finite games have clearly defined parameters – rules, a start, a finish. Examples would be a tennis match, writing a book, building a website, meeting for coffee. We understand when it’s done – when the ‘game’ is over.

Infinite games are blurry. The rules can change, the start point is debatable, and there isn’t a finish line. It’s being a tennis player, a writer, a web designer, a friend. It’s ongoing – the ‘game’ doesn’t end.

The difference is whether we are ‘doing’ or ‘being’.

Is this something I’m doing? A [finite] action or behaviour of some sort.

Or is this something I am? Part of my [infinite] identity.

Whichever game we are playing, the rules are important – especially when they change [which they will].

Before you start playing a finite game, both teams should understand the rules. Changing them unexpectedly is unfair – it’s cheating.

Infinite games are more complex. The rules are less clear, and other people may interpret them differently to us. We should also expect the rules to change – this may happen suddenly, without warning, or by gradual evolution.

Choose your games, wisely.


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