The Infinite Game: How to live Well Together

04 May 2018
Niki Harré
Niki Harré

Ahead of Niki Harré's book launch on Friday 11 May, 6pm-7.30pm at the Point Chevalier Library, we talk to the author about the inspiration behind her latest book, The Infinite Game: How to live well together.


1. You’ve said you were inspired by James Carse’s book. How so? 

"For several years I had been thinking that we need a new narrative or symbol to make sense of our lives together. Then I heard a podcast in which James Carse described life as an infinite game in which the key purpose is to keep the game in play. I was immediately intrigued – how could thinking about life as an infinite game help us approach the social and environmental issues we face? I read his book and went on to develop Infinite Game workshops based on his distinction between the infinite game and finite games. In finite games the key purpose is to win."

2. As a community psychologist, why do you think it is so important for us to read your book?

"Life is complicated and it is hard to work out how to be a ‘good’ person amidst multiple conflicting demands. Similarly organisations and communities can struggle to formulate, and stay true to, their purpose for being – that is the contribution they make to the world at large.  My book attempts to clarify the issues we face in attempting to live well as individuals and as collectives."

3. What insights will we gain from reading The Infinite Game; about ourselves, our communities?

"I hope you will gain an understanding of the difference between self-expression and cooperation on the one hand, and competition on the other. We live in a very competitive society, and this I think, is a core reason why we find it difficult to respond to new information – like knowledge of climate change or growing social inequalities. When people are pressured to succeed by the current rules, they put immense energy into winning by those rules and very little energy into changing the rules to make sure the larger game stays in play. On the positive side, when people realise they are part of a community of others who share their values, they feel the trust and hope needed to contribute their very best to the common good."

4. How did you manage to write your book alongside your work as an academic and Associate Dean-Sustainability?

"With great difficulty! During my sabbatical in 2014 I ran lots of Infinite Game workshops and read widely from a range of disciplines to try and tease out the implications of viewing life as an infinite game. Once I was back into my normal schedule, I tried to set aside the early morning of every weekday to work on the book or related academic articles. My ideal pattern is to write for three or four hours in the morning before opening email. Of course when I need to teach or attend a meeting before 10 or 11am I have to rethink my self-imposed regime."

5. What sort of research went into writing the book?

"Apart from reading, my Infinite Game workshops are at the heart of the book. I worked with Helen Madden and Rowan Brooks in particular on analysing the results from these."

6. What would an infinite player look like?

"The second part of my book deals with just that question. We are all both infinite and finite players, using the strategies from each game at different times. But when someone is engaged in infinite play they come across as warm, creative, open and welcoming.  The infinite game is full of joy – the joy of both being yourself and participating in a generous exchange with others." 


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