Welcome to "classic psychology books review", today's episode - "Games People Play". If you are interested in more reviews and cool books to read, check out Daygame Books And Social Skills Reading List.

Eric Berne, M.D. Presents

"Games People Play" was written in 1964 by psychiatrist Eric Berne. It's a sequel to "Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy" which is a scientific book, whereas "Games People Play" is a catalogue of games with a very brief introduction to transactional analysis.

You don't need anything else to understand the concept and devour the examples. The language is confusing but the concepts are easy. Essentially, in transactional analysis, you analyze the ego state (parent-like, adult-like, child-like) to determine the apparent and real aim of social interactions.

For example, a woman teasing and leading a man can be just flirting or it can also be a game of Rapo ("Buzz Off, Buster"). In the latter case, the exchange looks quite normal on an adult and superficial level but the woman is on the child-like ego state and in fact she's taking pleasure in rejecting and hurting the guy (real aim: malicious revenge).

Cover of "Games People Play"

If that doesn't sound familiar then I recommend to you my text on Shit Tests And Shit Test Strategies where you can learn more about handling the most common type of games. Because shit tests are very often just that - insincere questions or remarks that are only meant to provoke you. You can say that the girl is acting out of a child-like state to see how bad you will screw up.


But you don't have to.

Grand Psychological Theory Of Everything?

I don't pay much attention to psychological theories, even when I'm using them in my writing or coaching. It's not like I do not believe them but most of them seem too farfetched. Even when they do explain what's happening and they help predict the future.

You can see that whenever I'm talking about putting a girl in the box she doesn't want to be in (e.g. accusing a party girl of being a nerd). She will go to great lengths to make sure that your mental image of her is consistent with what she thinks of herself. It also builds a connection. But why?

I usually say that she rationalizes this as "I explained myself to him because I want that guy to see me as I see myself; I care about his opinion because I care about him; therefore, I must like him". It sounds plausible but it also could be horseshit.

I don't really care because I know from my experience that when people explain themselves to you, their regard for you also increases. If you're talking to a girl you just met, she will regard you as more attractive. And that's what matters.

"Games People Play" is full of theories, ranging from the transactional analysis to the concept of games themselves. Are they true? It doesn't matter as long as you can benefit from acting as if they were.

Intimacies and Games People Play

People need structured time. Most of us simply can't stand unstructured time. Therefore, according to Eric Berne, we engage in dreams, activities, procedures, rituals, pastimes, operations, games and intimacies.

Of course, intimacies are the most sought after and the hardest to get. Therefore, if we can't get one thing, we will get the other - sometimes by enjoying a hobby or a social gathering and some other time by playing games ("if I can't get intimacy, I will at least get something out of this interaction").


Those "Games People Play" are things that people do when they can't get real intimacy but they crave it. Accuse someone of something and take pleasure in the argument. Pretend that you're after one thing, then act surprised when you get it, blaming the other person for the misunderstanding. Or just simply act against your own interests and be angry that things end up exactly how you'd like them.

The main part of this book is the catalogue of games, described and analyzed in various depths. Besides that and introduction to transactional analysis you will also find description of the human kind quite in line with what you read in the 'sphere.

Red Pill 1964

"(...) there is even such a thing as 'one-sided intimacy' - a phenomenon well known, although not by that name, to professional seducers, who are able to capture their partners without becoming involved themselves."

This little quote suggests that you might find some familiar concepts in this book. Its aim, as with the whole "Red Pill" idea, is to describe things as they are, not as some would want them to be.

"In its most cynical form, White might actually allow him to complete the sexual act so that she gets the enjoyment before confronting him. The confrontation might be immediate, as in the illegitimate cry of rape, or it might be long delayed, as in suicide or homicide following a prolonged love affair."

This also sounds very familiar and very... red-pilled for a book over 50 years old. Let's find another quote for those of you who are in relationships.

"(...) a woman marries a domineering man so that he will restrict her activities and thus keep her from getting into situations which frighten her. (...) She takes advantage of the situation to complain about the restrictions, which makes her spouse feel uneasy and gives her all sorts of advantages."‚Äč


"Games People Play" describes dangerous situations in which clueless guys end up all the time. Not because they do something wrong but because they do exactly what is expected of them. They become part of the game unknowingly and they lose.


The book ends with far too familiar voice "This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it."

But let's go back to the actual games.

Everyday Games That People Play

Remember that "games" are insincere social interactions. Players hide their true aim from everyone else, very often even from themselves. Sometimes we behave like children, sometimes like our parents but we always pretend to be adults. The connection with the ego-states is obvious.

All games have names - catchphrases that capture the entire idea in one sentence. Therefore, we all know how to play "See What You Made Me Do" or "Now I've Got You, You Son of a Bitch". We've been part of those games countless times.

I'm particularly guilty of playing "See What You Made Me Do" a lot of times. Usually it was a failure in doing some kind of precise handwork. Of course, I won't stop playing right away but being aware that it is a game can help me alleviate the issue.

If you are interested in relationship games, you will find "Corner", "Courtroom", "Frigid Woman", "Harried", "If It Weren't For You", "Look How Hard I've Tried" and "Sweetheart".

In the category of sexual games, there are well-known "Let You and Him Fight", "Perversion", "Rapo", "The Stocking Game" and "Uproar".


Is it enough?

Is "Games People Play" Worth It?

I can sincerely recommend "Games People Play" for the study of game (as in picking up girls), navigating relationships (relationships are full of those games and women like to play them) and as a psychological view inside (find out what games are you playing and how do you hurt yourself).

The catalogue of martial and sexual games is not big. It's just twelve examples. Don't get any silly ideas. You won't improve your relationships or your daygame skills with "Games People Play". But the book will make you look differently at those moments when you or your interlocutor is frustrated. You will stop and think, "Okay, what is this really about? What is the true aim? What ego state I am talking to?"

If you are interested in self-development, that's a lot. If you're into psychology, it's really a fascinating read. Oh, and if you're into mindfulness, you will find some thoughts on that as well.

I'm glad that I didn't get 400+ pages reiterating one idea over and over again like in Cialdini's "Pre-Suasion". Eric Berne clearly explained the concept and gave enough examples so that I can work out the rest from there.

Of course, I would love to see more examples of games and more analysis that is complete. Very often, the games are only mentioned or described briefly, without antithesis (ways to break the game). Some names of the games are also confusing and abbreviations used throughout the book don't help.

"Games People Play" is not an easy book. You have to remember that it was written by an academic. It is, however, short and to the point. If you take that into account, you can enjoy "Games People Play" very much.

[Buy the book on Amazon]

Cover of "Games People Play"