Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finite and Infinite Games

This book was very meaningful to me, and very thought provoking. The primary focus of the book is that every activity in life can be approached one of two ways -- as a "finite game," that can be won or lost, achieved or failed, or as an "infinite game", which one plays because it is enjoyable to play it. I touch on this some in my book, and in fact, in the chapter where I discuss what we mean by "game", I quote Carse, even though I'd only read the first few chapters of the book, it was enough to help guide me. I would love to talk in detail about everything he presents, but honestly, I'm not sure I can -- what he presents is simmering away inside me, in some non-verbal way. I just listened to Carse's Long Now talk, which was interesting, but I don't feel like it gave me much more enlightenment. I have the feeling this is a book he brought over from the proto-world, and he probably does not understand it completely himself. I do feel certain that the relationship between our attitude about play and games relates powerfully to the nature of tranquility, which you might recall from here as being central to the meaning of life. I think the missing link is probably harmony, the secret to which I suspect is locked in Christopher Alexander's later books... I wish I could read them properly -- all my attempts have paralyzed my mind with thought. Perhaps I'm almost ready. I do hope I can comprehend this relationship during my lifetime.


  1. ...and bought!

    Hope it is as good as you describe it here :)

  2. Well, I usually use Juul's definition of a game, in which a game must have objectives and, therefore, an end. This theory really presents new possibilities for me, so if you could just try to answer this for me it'd be great : ) [though you have said u think you can't]

    How do this "no end" thing works? I mean, for Juul, the game must have variable outcome and those outcomes must be susceptible to valorisation so that one can know if this performance was satisfactory or not. So how do the player interpret his game trajectory if there is no "end"? Or there is the susceptible to valorisation outcome, just not a final countdown of it?

  3. The answer is simple. An objective does not mean an end. What if your objective is to play as long as you possibly can? That might sound weird, but it is the goal of pinball, or space invaders, for example. But that's not really what Carse is talking about -- he's talking about what's important to you as you play. Is it more important for you to win, or to play? If playing is more important, then you will focus on questions like, "how can I continue to play?" I think of my grandparents, for example -- every Wednesday night, they would play bridge with the neighbors. To win? No... they barely kept track of who won and lost. No, they played because they liked playing with the neighbors. And so, they arranged it so that they played regularly, once a week, for decades, as long as they possibly could.