A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility
How does this play with literature?
Reading a book there is the finite purpose of completing from cover to cover. The “winning” goal. Yet, even then the completion, “winning”, could be redefined as having thoroughly read, studied, and then even incorporated into one’s daily life. A finite purpose given an seemingly infinite number of other purposes. In otherwords, a finite game changed for an infinite game to keep the play alive.
We witness, experience, and even participate in numerous infinite games. Marketing is an infinite game. Though a finite goal is achievable in form of stats and quotas, the goal posts move just as soon as they are reached.
When we experience something enjoyable; reading a good book, playing a beloved video game, and watching an exciting movie. We, often times, want to extend the play, extend the experience by turning a finite game into an infinite game.
Of course, this shift from finite to infinite isn’t true for everyone. Some believe merely reading a book is enough and thus that’s their definition of “winning”. However, I would argue that everyone has sort of game they want to continue playing; thus, “winning” isn’t simply an achieved goal, but a goal in a seemingly endless stream is goals.
For gamers, any freemium game is riddled with this. Destiny is plagued with this. World of Warcraft has banked on this.
For readers, fan-fiction helps extend the play, conventions provide interaction, and discussion provides nuance.
Then, of course, reading a book that is so good that you want to extend the experience. You find ways to embrace, embody the elements of the narrative into yourlife. Maybe its for study, maybe its for understanding, and maybe its just for entertainment.
I recall becoming obsessed with American Psycho. I idolized Patrick Bateman and his yuppie, coked-out lifestyle, even though now I have no interest in it. I wanted to experience the tastes, music, and lifestyle described. I participated in discussions and consumed commentary.
All this to extend the experience, continue enjoyment, and to keep the play alive. Just about everyone has his or her story, whether it’s enjoying discussions and debates to living as a character, even if just briefly.
Feel free to share your experiences.