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"There are at least two kinds of games: finite and infinite."

dice.jpgJames Carse, Finite and Infinite Games

There are a few books that you read that make you stop and really assess what you are doing and why. Finite and Infinite Games was this kind of book for me. It's a book of philosophy that starts with simple, axiomatic statements and procedes to look at all of human conduct in terms of playing games. This, of course, is automatically appealing to me, game player that I am.

He goes on to delineate differences between finite and infinite games...

The rules of the finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must change.
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful.
Finite players win titles; infinite players have nothing but their names.
Finite players strive for control; infinite players enjoy surprise.
To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.

Most memorable to me is that the goal of the finite player is to conclude play by being victorious where the goal of the infinite player is to continue play.

Now, none of this is to say that finite play is evil or infinite good. Carse is clear that people participate in finite games all the time and do so authentically, but one shouldn't fool oneself into thinking that the titles finite players win are anything but transitory.

This whole taxonomy of play has helped me greatly in my relationships, career, ministry, and so on. It reminds me to be playful and not to get so seriously mired in my little finite games that I miss the big picture. And, believe me, I like to play.

40 for 40, #28

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