Get out of the cage of inner volume and embrace the freedom of unlimited games|Recommended book “Limited and Unlimited Games”

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Many people compare life to a game, because they all need to compete with others on the same stage to seek the greatest victory under the established rules. The ranking for further education while studying and the fierce competition for jobs after employment are all about deciding the winner. Everyone wants to win.

But we may never have thought that in addition to participating in a game with winning and losing, we can actually choose another game-a game that can be played continuously without winning or losing.

This is the point of view in The Game of Finite and Infinite. It believes that there are at least two kinds of games in the world, finite and infinite. The purpose of finite games is to win, and the purpose of infinite games is to continue the game.

It’s amazing that when I first learned about this theory from the book Game Changes the World, I just thought it was interesting, but it didn’t inspire me much.


But when I read this 200,000-word book by myself, the impact on me was immediate. The day after I finished reading, when I had a conflict with a colleague at work, I kept thinking in my mind, “No, I can’t be as angry as the other side, I want to play an infinite game, and the one who wins and loses for a while can’t play anymore”, So I held back my anger and finally solved the problem smoothly.

So today I recommend this book to everyone. After reading it, you will definitely feel, wow, it turns out that some competitions are not necessary at all. It turns out that there are so many choices. The change of life starts from the change of attitude, I believe you You can be as open-minded as I am!

However, the book is actually a philosophy book. It is difficult to understand and interpret, and the writing method is more stream-of-consciousness. The author did not deliberately construct a strict framework and reasoning, and even the author himself did not directly publish “Infinite Games is better.” ”, so I will add my personal understanding to interpret it for a better introduction.

1. Basic concepts of finite and infinite games

Finite games have three distinctive features.

  1. It is aimed at winning. Once the winner is decided, the game is over, so it is called a limited game. Note that the winner here must be agreed by all participants, not the referee or the audience.
  2. Participants can only play within the game boundaries.
  3. The rules of the finite game come into effect once all participants agree and cannot be changed, otherwise it is another game.

How, does it sound familiar, almost a model of competition we have encountered since childhood. The infinite game is just the opposite of it, and it also has three relative salient features.

  1. It’s not about winning, it’s about continuing the game.
  2. Instead of playing within boundaries, participants play with boundaries, and participants can use the rules to incorporate the boundaries and limitations of the game into the game itself.
  3. Unlike finite games, where the rules are fixed, the rules of infinite games are constantly changing: when the participants collectively believe that the game is threatened by a finite outcome, i.e. there will be winners and losers, then the rules can be changed.

Having said that, I believe that everyone should be clear about the difference between finite games and infinite games. For example, if you find out that there is no game, subverting an industry often means breaking the boundaries of the industry. Subversion, the subversion of the auto industry by driverless driving, and the subversion of various industries by current AI, the new players in these industries are not playing within the boundaries of the game. Broaden the boundaries of the industry and rejuvenate the industry.

So are finite games and infinite games completely opposites? No, they have a certain relationship and can sometimes be converted into each other. Let’s clarify the next four concepts first.

  • limited game
  • unlimited games
  • limited game participants
  • Unlimited game participants

The relationship between the four is that the infinite game cannot be played in the finite game, but the infinite game participants can choose to play the finite game in the infinite game, and then withdraw after the end.

Take an example to make it clearer. For example, the company suffered losses due to internal reasons at work, and the departments involved shied each other, and you are one of them. If you think that it is necessary to win the other party in this conflict, then in fact, you regard it as a winner and loser. is a finite game, in which you are a finite game participant. But if you think that in this incident, you value the relationship with the other department more than who takes responsibility, and it is more important for the other party to continue to cooperate with you in your work in the future, so your focus on this conflict is not who It’s the blame, but how to solve it so as not to affect the relationship between the two sides. In this way, in fact, for you, it is an infinite game with the purpose of continuing the game, and you regard yourself as a participant in the infinite game.


Going a step further, it doesn’t matter who you think is the culprit and the relationship with the other department. What matters is the evaluation of you by the upper management of the company through this incident. Your focus is on how to keep working in the company for a long time. Think of this as an infinite game, so in order to keep working for a long time, you should not take the blame for it. So in fact, you are entering the conflict and deciding the winner as an infinite game participant.

So, in fact, whether you are a limited game participant or an infinite game participant depends on your positioning of yourself and your judgment on the current game.

The next question is, do finite and infinite games have something in common?

Yes, the only thing they have in common is that they all voluntarily participate in the game. The participants of the infinite game are free to participate, while the participants of the finite game are selected, but they also need to agree to participate, otherwise the game will be meaningless.

However, it may not be aware of this absolute freedom, so I will not list it here for the time being, and explain it later.

The difference between finite and infinite games

The above only talks about the basic differences and commonalities between finite and infinite games, but the book also mentions a lot of different performances of participants in finite and infinite games in different dimensions, which is also very thought-provoking. Here I list a few very interesting. Say it.

Different Attitudes to “Surprise”

The surprise here is translated. I understand that it should refer to an accident caused by man or non-man-made, causing game participants to be caught off guard, and even causing a turnaround of the situation.

In finite games, by surprising opponents, players have the potential to win. Surprise in a finite game is the victory of the past over the future, as the advantage of the past is maintained. Compared with players who cannot predict their opponents, finite-game ace players who can predict their opponents have a decisive victory. They know how to control the future and prevent changing the winning situation of the past, so they also have a fear of unpredictable results. . Therefore, they must play a good role and maintain a good advantage, not themselves, and all their external manifestations are disguised.

On the other hand, there can also be finite games within infinite games, so infinite game participants do not shy away from the surprises of finite games, they also cover themselves appropriately, but they don’t take it so seriously, rather the game seems to to treat. They are ready for future surprises and enter the game with a completely open mind—opening up to their weaknesses and growing better as a result.

I have such an experience that the more open-minded you are in your daily life, the more real feedback you can receive and the more you can adjust yourself accordingly. On the contrary, if you dare not expose your true self and thoughts, dare not act, you will be afraid Cowardly, without real feedback, it is difficult to progress.

Of course, this will also bear the cost of injury and failure, and the article also mentions that dealing with surprises requires training or education. But the infinite game participants are more concerned about keeping the game going, so they don’t value the momentary wins or losses as much as the finite game participants. In other words, if the infinite game participants are not prepared to lose the game at any time, or get hurt , then it is difficult for him to play the infinite game.

Different performance as an audience

Next, let’s talk about another interesting dimension, that is, the performance of finite and infinite game participants as a spectator.

For limited game participants, it is easy for them to forget who they are as an audience and become immersed in it, causing them to lose their sense of distance from the contestants. Win or lose, it is both the contestants and the spectators. Therefore, it is very easy to fall into the same dissatisfaction of the contestants. This dissatisfaction will inspire the contestants to prove that they are not what others think they are, and the audience will also be tied to the contestants at this time and oppose those “false” evaluations.

Unlimited game participants, can play a variety of limited games, and can become a spectator of any game. However, they become the audience while also observing the game and fully aware of their audience identity. They are watching, but they see themselves watching.

This can’t help but remind people of the standing line and scolding often seen on the Internet, or the reaction of fans in sports when they see the team lose.

different attitudes towards death

Finally, let’s talk about the attitude of participants of finite and infinite games to “death”.

The book mentions that people compete in finite games to win titles, why? Because a title is a title, an honor, it can penetrate time and let future generations remember the winner, and the winner will gain immortality. But the utility of a title depends on its importance in the eyes of others. Since a title exists only when it is recognized, it is necessary to find ways to ensure that it is remembered. For example, when an NBA star retires his jersey, his jersey number is no longer used by the team. Used by players to commemorate great players.


So in finite games, death is a defeat unless they win the game.

Unlike infinite game participants, death does not mean failure, because the limit of death is part of the game, and infinite game participants do not die at the end of the game, but during the game. Infinite Gamers don’t join the game for their lives, they live for their game. So the infinite game does not end with the death of the participant.

How many people in history have died one after another for their own ambitions and ideals, this is an infinite game for them. When Socrates was executed, he had a chance to avoid death. As long as he confessed his guilt, even his students had already bought the jailer to let him escape, but he vowed not to confess his guilt. , death was neither a failure nor an end for him, but a wake-up call for the Athenians and later generations to reflect on democracy, and he was willing to die.


So actually introduced here, presumably everyone has a general understanding of limited games and infinite games, do you think it can be substituted into many scenes in life? Do you think that doing things to people with an infinite game mentality can solve many problems in life?

But wait, infinite games have their limitations.

3. Infinite games also have their limitations

First, while anyone can be a powerful player in an infinite game, that’s not to say that power doesn’t damage infinite games. Evil is the end of the infinite game, it brings the infinite game to an inaudible silence.

Just like the age of great voyages, Europeans opened up new routes and crossed the Atlantic to reach the Americas, bringing disaster to the Native Americans. Christians brought viruses and wars under the banner of spreading the gospel of God, completely breaking the development of Indian civilization. To this day, we have no way of knowing how many civilizations on the American continent were completely submerged under the hoofs of colonizers.


However, evil never wants to be evil; in fact, it breeds the desire to destroy evil.

Infinite game participants understand that evil is inevitable, so they do not try to eliminate evil in others, because that is what creates evil impulses. They are simply trying to paradoxically recognize the evil within themselves in the form of trying to eliminate evil elsewhere.

Secondly, it is not easy to regard yourself as a participant in an infinite game. When your short-term interests are violated, when your self-esteem is trampled, and when the things you care about are hurt, can you really swallow your voice? Treating ourselves as a participant in the infinite game does not mean that our suffering will be reduced, it only changes our mentality. Even, it has put forward higher requirements on us, requiring us to take into account the overall situation, asking us to make concessions, and asking us to forgive.

But even so, switching to an infinite game perspective can still give us a lot. Methodology is used to guide us to improve our lives, and we can only apply it better if we recognize its limitations.

Kevin Kelly, author of “Out of Control,” recommends the book, saying “the difference between the two games relieved me of what to do next. It’s simple: always choose the infinite game.”

Jane McGonigal, the author of “Games Change the World” mentioned above, was inspired by this. She believes that games that “keep players wanting to play” are better than games with an end. Always walk on the brink of failure, in order to make people work at the limit of their ability, and reach a state of full commitment (that is, flow), people want to stay for a long time, even if they fail, there will be a kind of rebirth. The urge to play.

So, if you want to play infinite games, how should you operate it?

Fourth, the specific way of practice

The author only introduces the concept of finite and infinite games, but does not directly say which is better or worse, nor how to use it to guide our lives. Based on my personal understanding, I think it can be done according to the following steps, you can refer to:

  1. Pay attention to the events that put more energy into your current life, which can be classified as limited games and which can be classified as infinite games? How to handle it best?
  2. The next time you run into something tough, before you tackle it, you can also ask yourself, can this be classified as a finite or infinite game, and what is the best way to deal with it?

For example, in interpersonal communication, you will not fight for a moment, because you think about how to cooperate with each other for a long time.

For example, when facing friction in a relationship, when you want to play an infinite love game with the other party, you will no longer take the attitude of ignoring or aggrieved, but will think about how to solve it so that the game can continue to be played.

For example, in your career, you will not only focus on your current position and position in the company, because you consider how long you can continue to play in this position and how long you are willing to play.

Then you may ask, this is an event for which an infinite game attitude can be adopted. What about finite games, those involuntarily finite games, such as academic exams, is an absolute finite game with winners and losers.

Everyone remembers that the previous article said that there are limited game participants. In fact, participation and withdrawal are free. For example, many ancient literati we are familiar with, such as Su Dongpo, who is an official, can be inappropriate in front of me, and suddenly I am exiled to the rivers and lakes. So you can decide whether to continue or quit after you decide. But most people may not realize it, and there may be three reasons for this:

  1. Constrained by rules and surrounded by expectations of others, feel unable to do whatever they want.
  2. The goal of a limited game is to win, and the participants’ words and actions are all to win. If they do not maintain a certain level of performance, they may be disqualified from the game.
  3. The cost of failure is enormous, such as when enslaved or severely politically oppressed, and refusing to accept the role you are asked to take may cost death.

The author gives an example. He said, look at slaves, slaves do not have any freedom, slaves are driven by the master all the time. Suppose we think that the slave lives in this way, then the slave only has survival, but he does not have life. This kind of life is a “life that cannot live in it”. He may need to give up his own existence if he wishes to have a life.

However, it is precisely because of the existence of the cost that it just shows the freedom of limited players, and the weakest oppressed must also agree to be oppressed.

Just like the famous sentence in “The Old Man and the Sea”: People can be destroyed, but they cannot be defeated.

In life, we often feel that we have no choice and no way back, but in fact, it is not that we have no choice, but because we want too much and do not want to give up anything.

Then maybe you want to ask again, even if you can realize this freedom, but so what? Can it really be said that quitting is quitting?

The limited game player has the freedom to leave the arena at any time, but actually has to stay in the fight, because he volunteers to compete, so he can only convince himself. In order to bridge this gap, the participants also mask their freedom to some extent.

Each character in a finite game must withdraw from his freedom with appropriate seriousness to act according to the character’s requirements, so that others can perform with him and complete the character’s task.

For example, the actor always knows that she is acting when she is acting, she never forgets that she is covering herself to play the role, and the audience does not forget that she is the audience, although we regard her as Ophelia (Hamlet). character), but we never doubted that she was not Ophelia. Together we veiled her, we allowed the feelings she was acting out to affect us, even strongly, but we never forgot that we allowed them to.

Acting is like this, isn’t it like that in reality? The biggest dream of migrant workers in first-tier cities is to have a home in this city, for which they sacrificed their youth and even their health. Although they sometimes doubt the correctness of staying, the first-tier cities have abundant resources, family expectations, and expectations for the future. And the need for a sense of security will form a force in your mind, constantly persuading you, persuading you to believe, to believe that buying a house in a first-tier city is very important to you, like everyone else, also To have a home here, to work hard to make it happen.

However, if you believe that you believe, or that you know you believe, this is not believing. It is not something that should be felt in an infinite game, it is the “covering of freedom” brought about by the rules of a finite game.

But no matter what kind of cover-up can’t cover up the cover-up itself, self-covering is a contradictory act, a voluntary withdrawal from freedom. I may have been so successful at disguising that I even believed in my own performance, but these convictions were never enough to dispel the paradox of self-veiling.

Finite games are inseparable from self-covering, and choosing to stay or quit is not the point.

The point is, even to ourselves, are we willing to take off our masks and confess that we voluntarily choose to face the world through a mask?

And how far can we go to get others to perform with us?

In the final analysis, viewing events as finite or infinite games is to help us see our hearts clearly, and after we see clearly, how to choose how to act depends on ourselves.

About the book of limited and infinite games, I will share it here first. This book is very thin, but it is difficult to chew. What I said above is only a drop in the bucket. I recommend everyone to read the original book again.

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Get out of the cage of inner volume and embrace the freedom of unlimited games | The recommended book “Limited and Unlimited Games” first appeared in Haowen Collection .

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