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Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James Carse

My Rating of “Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility” by James Carse: 8 / 10

This is the kind of book that either a reader will thoroughly enjoy or come out hating. Many reviews I’ve read from other readers certainly prove this theory. The reason is due to the topic itself and how deep Carse takes it. We all play games – mostly in the finite realm. Yet Carse takes this metaphor to another level. This book centres of life itself as the ultimate infinite game. Humans play finite games throughout our life whether for virtue signalling, competition, oneupmanship etc. If you read this book the right way then the lesson to learn here is to play the infinite game and minimise/eliminate the finite games.

Finite and Infinite Games is not an easy book to read. It is written with many complex and metaphorical comparisons between the two major concepts. Whether in work, at home, with friends or even today’s social media (although not directly referenced) Carse is able to make the comparison. Although written back in the 1987 the book is more than relevant today. The challenge is to plough through each and every page and make sense of the philosophy. There are many lessons one can learn from dedicating their time to get though this book!

Three key takeaways from the book:

  1. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
  2. Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.
  3. There is but one infinite game.

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