A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.
Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game. Infinite players regard their wins and losses in whatever finite games they play as but moments in continuing play.
The agreement of the players to the applicable rules constitutes the ultimate validation of those rules. Rules are not valid because the Senate passed them, or because heroes once played by them, or because God pronounced them through Moses or Muhammad. They are valid only if and when players freely play by them.
The rules of an infinite game are changed to prevent anyone from winning the game and to bring as many persons as possible into the play.
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.
Inasmuch as a finite game is intended for conclusion, inasmuch as its roles are scripted and performed for an audience, we shall refer to finite play as theatrical.
Inasmuch as infinite players avoid any outcome whatsoever, keeping the future open, making all scripts useless, we shall refer to infinite play as dramatic.
Dramatically, one chooses to be a mother; theatrically, one takes on the role of mother.
Finite play is dramatic, but only provisionally dramatic. As soon as it is concluded we are able to look backward and see how the sequence of moves, though made freely by the competitors, could have resulted only in this outcome. We can see how every move fit into a sequence that made it inevitable that this player would win. The fact that a finite game is provisionally dramatic means that it is the intention of each player to eliminate its drama by making a preferred end inevitable. It is the desire of all finite players to be Master Players, to be so perfectly skilled in their play that nothing can surprise them, so perfectly trained that every move in the game is foreseen at the beginning. A true Master Player plays as though the game is already in the past, according to a script whose every detail is known prior to the play itself.
Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.
To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.
The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish.
An infinite player does not begin working for the purpose of filling up a period of time with work, but for the purpose of filling work with time. Work is not an infinite player's way of passing time, but of engendering possibility. Work is not a way of arriving at a desired present and securing it against an unpredictable future, but of moving toward a future which itself has a future. Infinite players cannot say how much they have completed in their work or love or quarreling, but only that much remains incomplete in it. They are not concerned to determine when it is over, but only what comes of it.
"The only true voyage would be not to travel through a hundred different lands with the same pair of eyes, but to see the same land through a hundred different pairs of eyes" (Proust).