The dichotomy he sets up between finite games and infinite games is basically between narrow, game-based goals of "winning" and the more expansive goals of infinite play.
In kind of a related fashion, this study of children's play behavior: Why are Rooie Rules Nice shows how children manage the purposefulness of their own play activity: they disallow what they call "purpose stuff", which is roughly playing with too much finite-game attitude and not enough niceness which permits the game to go on.
There was a mention of Finite and Infinite Games but it included a bit of a sneer at it for being read by "business people". I found that off-putting even though I certainly share in that kind of snobbery. There's a mild but definite aura of subcultural elitism around WS, of being better than the normies.
Every so often I randomly stumble on a book or author that is simply just way out there, at least, relative to my ordinary ways of thinking. Books that I am barely qualified to read, let alone understand and internalize. Books that seem sui generis, not really about any particular field of study, but somehow about themselves and hence about the fundamental nature of being itself. A few years ago it was Peter Sloterdijk's You Must Change Your Life, which I'm still trying to write something about. Before that, I suppose Finite and Infinite Games might also be in this category. Maybe High Weirdness as well.
Two ways of escaping (transcending?) history: the unhistorical (which is just forgetting and very common) and the suprahistorical, which is tantalizingly vague, but seems to involve a light playful sprit that can appreciate (or cause) the manifestation of the eternal in the midst of the flow of time and the historical. Cites Finite and Infinite Games.
Finite and Infinite Games is a little book by James Carse that has a bit of a cult following. Well-deserved in my opinion!
It has a certain family resemblance to Martin Buber's I and Thou. Like Buber, he has a very sharply-drawn dichotomy between two radically different modes of being. In Buber, the two modes are modes of relating, distinct attitudes between the self and the world – one rather mundane, the other obviously special and superior, although not usually readily available.
Carse's dichotomy is similarly valenced. Finite games are kind of ordinary, necessary, and perfectly fine but sort of missing the real point of existence, whereas infinite games transcend mundane social rules in favor of something greater.
Carse died recently, but shortly before I was lucky enough to attend a Zoom meeting with him, set up by some of his superfans in the Ribbonfarm community. I got to ask him if there was a Martin Buber connection and he acknowledged the influence.
Infinite players are not serious actors in any story, but the joyful poets of a story that continues to originate what they cannot finish.