The universality of games

All people play games as we know from Eric Berne. They form an integral part of human relationships in all our lives . To be game free in one’s life is considered a most unrealistic goal. How can one explain this universality of game playing in human psychology as they are so prevalent in human relating.

One explanation is they have a positive evolutionary function. One thing games do is place people under stress. It forces them to live with and deal with stress in their everyday lives. This then could be seen as a kind of resilience training. The best way for people to become resilient is to be forced into stressful situations where they have to live with it and cope.

If this is true, that could explain why psychological games are such an integral part of the human psyche. Why they are so universal in human relationships. And why they are not going to stop, or go away any time soon. They makes us psychologically stronger and thus we are more likely to survive in adverse times.

Eric Berne listed the six advantages of games as follows



What is proposed here is a seventh advantage of games

VII. Evolutionary. Develops psychological strength and resilience making survival more likely.

If this is accepted then of course one needs to begin questioning the treatment of games in psychotherapy. If there is this evolutionary advantage to games then what does one do with games which are presented by the client in treatment?

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4 Responses to “The universality of games”

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  1. Cristina Pop says:

    Very interesting perspective, thank you for the food for thought!

    In response to the last paragraph, I’m thinking of an analogy. Exposure to bacteria helps develop a healthy immune system. An obsession for cleanliness, similarly to an obsession for getting rid of games, is most probably damaging. On the other hand, too much of either bacteria or games can be equally damaging. So I’d say that an effective “treatment” of games might lead to both diminishing the games which are too much for maintaining psychological health, as well as to more tolerance for the games still to be played. At least in the case of third degree games, I think the person becomes more resilient by lowering the level of games, since this kind of games are more likely to get the person dead or excluded from society. What do you say?

    I’m also curious about your view on intimacy. Right now I would say that intimacy can also build resilience just as much as games, because of its intensity and lack of predictability; it is not all about milk and honey, it can be very uncomfortable, too. What do you think about this?


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