From Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse:
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
Although it may be evident enough in theory that whoever plays a finite game plays freely, it is often the case that finite players will come to think that whatever they do they must do.
One senses a compulsion to maintain a certain level of performance…
The constant attentiveness of finite players to the progress of the competition can lead them to believe that every move they make they must make.
Fields of play simply do not impose themselves on us. Therefore, all the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.
Players must intentionally forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play, else all competitive effort will desert them.
From the outset of finite play each part or position must be taken up with a certain seriousness… we positively believe we are the persons those roles portray. Even more: we make those roles believable to others.
“To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe” (Sartre).
[Infinite players] embrace the abstractness of finite games as abstractness, and therefore take them up not seriously, but playfully… They freely take up masks.. but not without acknowledging to themselves and others that they are masked.
We are playful when we engage others at the level of choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out — when, in fact, no one has an outcome to be imposed on the relationship, apart from the decision to continue it.
To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary… everything that happens is of consequence. It is seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.
Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.
Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future, they play in complete openness… openness as in vulnerability.
To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.
If to look is to look at what is contained within its limitations, to see is to see the limitations themselves.
There is an indefinite number of worlds.
Finite speakers come to speech with their voices already trained and rehearsed. They must know what they are doing with the language before they can speak it. Infinite speakers must wait and see what is done with their language by the listeners before they can know what they have said. Infinite speech does not expect the hearer to see what is already known to the speaker, but to share a vision the speaker could not have had without the response of the listener.
Finite speech informs another about the world — for the sake of being heard. Infinite speech forms a world about the other — for the sake of listening.
(There were so many passages I marked in this little book that I never finished typing them all and let this file languish for about 8 months. Now my copy of the book is on the other side of the country. Maybe I will type the rest of my favorite parts later but you should really just read the whole thing, it’s amazing.)