Book Review: Games People Play

Games People Play:  The Psychology Of Human Relationships, by Eric Berne, MD

Some time ago, I made a note that my pastor was enthusiastic about this book and recommended that we in the congregation read it.  Since it was a popular book at the library, it has been some time that I am able to read it, but in reading this book I found myself with a lot of questions.  Which of these games do I play with others?  Which of these games do others play with me?  Which of these games has my pastor seen played and is particularly irritated about?  How can one become comfortable enough with awareness, spontaneity in the face of stressful interactions with others, and intimacy not to play most of these games at all?  To be sure, I read a lot in these pages that I was painfully familiar with [1], and reading the games people play written about in such a clinical fashion was painful and somewhat embarrassing.  I suppose many people will have the same feeling in looking at this book if they see themselves on these pages, and that sort of candor is best done in reading a book individually and perhaps afterward enjoying a discussion of the games with someone who is similarly unsentimental, rather than being confronted abruptly and openly by someone who wants to point out the games that you are playing.

This is a short book of under 200 pages and can be profitably read by anyone who is aware of the language of social psychology used by the author, although the version I read was an older one and the language used was pretty unsparing in my own judgment.  Like Gaul, this book is divided into three parts.  The first part of the book gives a brief discussion of the analysis of games:  structural analysis (1), transactional analysis (2), procedures and rituals (3), pastimes (4), and a brief introduction to games (5).  The second part of the book, which makes up the bulk of the contents, gives a brief and possibly obsolete but frighteningly clinical discussion of a thesaurus of various games, divided into gategories like life games (6), marital games (7), party games (8), sexual games (9), underworld games (10), consulting room games (11), and a few good games (12).  The third and final part of the book gives a very brief discussion of going beyond games to intimacy, and the author appears pessimistic about the ability of most people to do this effectively.

There are many ways one can take this book, and it is probably best to take the book on a variety of levels.  First, the reader of this book should be sensitive to the sort of games that they play as well as the degrees to which they play them (some of these games, when taken to the ultimate degree, can be a matter of life/death/court).  Likewise, once the reader overcomes a sense of personal embarrassment at having one’s own games dealt with in the blunt manner of the author, the next response is likely to be a shrewd desire to recognize the types of games that one will witness so as to diagnose them and take the appropriate countermeasures, which are also talked about in this book along with the personal and social benefits that are gained from playing these games effectively.  Given how common some of these games are, it behooves us to have some idea of what type of games we are playing and how others are playing with us, hopefully so that we can pause and examine ourselves and think if there is a better way to get what we most want out of life rather than playing games to get it.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Book Review: Games People Play

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

    • Excellent, I’m glad you appreciated this one. 😀

      • jamesbradfordpate says:

        Yeah, Ron Dart liked to refer to this book in some of his sermons and radio programs. It was good to see an overview of the book’s contents. My Dad talked with me about a book that he liked a few years ago: Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average, by
        Joseph T. Hallinan. He said that book is similar to Games People Play, but with less academic language.

      • The language in Games People Play is a bit academic, but the author is far more academic in his other writings.

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