Saturday, 1 March 2008

Finite And Infinite Games - James P Carse

This is an intriguing philosophical treatise that explores the differences between finite and infinite play. To quote the opening of the book: ‘There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other, infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.’ Carse proceeds to expand on this idea, applying it to the everyday world in a way that opens up discussion rather than making choices. Those are left to the reader.

As well as being a work of philosophy this is a work of psychology – inevitable given that it examines the ways in which people conduct their lives. In this it is an invaluable tool for any writer thinking about what motivates their characters and how those motivations and views of the world will come into conflict.

It is a short book, broken down into small sections, but it does require a bit of thought. No bad thing. I found it worth the effort, not so much for the basic thesis (which I know from other sources), but because it does open interesting insights into behaviour – something with which all writers should be concerned.