“My life is like a video game, I maintain when I’m in the zone, one player, one life.” – Ninja, Die Antwoord
Games play an interesting role in our lives because they test our mettle and mindfulness. Readers of self-help and entrepreneurially minded material have likely encountered the idea of gamifying you life, or gamifying your mindset.
Not to be confused with game theory, Wikipedia says, “Gamification is the application of—game principles in non-game contexts—to improve user engagement. A collection of research on gamification shows that—it has positive effects on individuals. However, individual and contextual differences exist.”
Many of these thought pieces focus on routines—viewing your life as a role-playing game to unlock self-improvement and promote problem solving skills. But they don’t all make the distinction between zero-sum games and infinite games.
A finite game is played with the goal of winning, ending the game zero-sum. An infinite game is played with the purpose of continuing to play.
Finite games have a clear start and finish, infinite games are rewarding as long as you are playing.
A game of baseball has determined rules the players agree to, nine innings, and whoever scores the most runs wins. The infinite game has known and unknown players, the rules change, and the objective is to keep it going.
Life is an infinite game. The game of business is an infinite game.
When a finite player plays a finite player, the game is stable. A game is also stable when an infinite player plays another infinite player. A game is unstable when a finite player pits against an infinite player. The finite player tries to win, while the infinite player only tries to continue playing, putting the finite player in a quagmire.
Viewing life as a game is a real world powerful metaphor that can be an empowering and uplifting frame.
Without letting a zero-sum mentality corrode your mindset, thinking this way can help with goals or tasks of any size by making them more engaging and exciting. It reminds you of your freedom of choice and provides a productive coping mechanism for frustrations and fear, activating happiness from little successes, perceived sense of progress, and the enjoyment of being alive.
“Competition is for losers.” – Peter Thiel
Executives often talk about how to beat their competition, while some focus on advancing a cause. Businesses that think in terms of quarters versus those that think in terms of lasting 50 years make their decisions in dramatically different ways.
In the infinite game, consistency is more important than intensity. If the game is approaching resolution because of the rules of play, the rules must be changed to allow it to continue. Otherwise, it’s game over.