Book: Finite and Infinite Games

The book, Finite and Infinite Games, focuses on the differences between finite games and infinite games. Finite games are played “for the purpose of winning” and infinite games are played “for the purpose of continuing the play”.

Some other differences:

  1. External vs. internal boundaries — “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries”.
  2. Time is limited vs. time is created within the play itself: “Infinite players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play”.
  3. Title as an end goal vs. continuity: you plan to win some sort of a title and “when a person is known by title, the attention is on a completed past, on a game already concluded, and not therefore to be played again”.

Many activities we’re involved in can be categorize as either finite or infinite games. For example, a job interview (finite game) vs. a career (infinite game). This video does a good job explaining it:

However, the passage I like the most from the book is the following:

“Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue […] To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.”

Finite and Infinite Games