“Whether in sport or life we have a choice whether to participate in either a finite game, or infinite game.” This is according to James Carse, author of Finite and Infinite Games,
The Finite Game: Within a given set of rules , there is a beginning and an end to the game where there is a winner and a loser.
When the finite game ends, there is a point in time where “The winner” claims a “title” of sorts.
“The titled are powerful. Those around them are expected to yield, to withdraw their opposition, and to conform to their will—in the arena in which the title was won.”
Carse points out that our society is a sort of Finite Game. Those who have money and property tend to feel “entitled”, which historically comes from a time where lords of the land held a “title”.
“Some titles are inherited, though only when the bloodline or some other tangible connection where the original winner had been established, suggesting that the winners have continued to exist in their descendants. The heirs to titles are therefore obliged to display the appropriate emblems: a coat of arms, identifiable styles of speech, clothing, or a certain lifestyle and behavior.
The entitled tend not to ask about philosophy or religion, but rather feel it’s their god given right to tell you about philosophy and religion.
Carse continues that whether intentional or not, the entitled due their utmost to propagate the idea that the principal function of society is to validate their titles which assures their perpetual recognition as “winners”. The cultural refrain comes to mind, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
When you play a finite game you always have to prove something rather than relishing and enjoying the play. Carse cites 18 time grand slam champion Martina Navratilova’s reason for leaving tennis was not from the pressure of having to win but from the pressure of possibly losing.
Imagine taking away the end of the game.. this is what Carse defines as an infinite game. Suddenly with no end, there is no winner, loser, or title.
Infinite game theory removes all titles. In the infinite mindset, all players are equal. An interesting thing happens when you remove titles, judgement no longer exists. In order for someone to judge you, you must first give them a title. If your finite game mindset bestows titles, putting other players on the “winners” podium, you have only yourself to blame.
I love the recent reincarnation of the Walt Whitman quote, “Be Curious, not judgmental” which inspired a line in the Ted Lasso series, “Only two reasons someone asks you a question. One is that they are curious, the other is to judge.”
In the Infinite game, the end of the game transforms into a horizon, with life milestones along the way. Infinite game play is an open invitation for all to participate as long as mutual respect is shown and the willingness to engage with other players…one step closer to a harmonious society…