What Kind of Game Are You Playing? Filmmaking and game theory collide.

Whether you know it or not, you’re playing one of two games with your filmmaking journey.

The bad news is that if you’re playing the wrong one, it’s likely causing you frustration, disappointment, stress, and anxiety.  The good news is that you can start playing the other game right now (and start shedding all of that frustration, stress, etc.).

To figure out which one you’re playing, take a look at the two sentences below and select which one best describes you:

  1.  I’ll be happy with my career after I accomplish __________________.
  2.  I’m happy with my career now and want to keep doing it.

If you resonate with #1, don’t worry, you’re in good company.  It’s where I’ve spent most of my career – playing a finite game.

The goal of a finite game is to win. There is a set of clearly defined rules & a clearly defined end to the game.  Take baseball for example: at the end of 9 innings whoever has the most runs wins.  End of game.  There’s a winner and a loser.

However, if you resonate with #2, you’re in an amazing spot because you are playing an infinite game.

An infinite game, unlike a finite game does not have a known ending. In fact, the goal of the game is to continue playing.

So what does this brief dive into game theory have to do with making films for a church?

Well, kind of everything.

The truth is that we’re all playing an infinite game (perhaps the term “eternal” would be a more Christian way to put it).  However, when you think you’re playing a game that has an end in sight you tend to cut corners, work extra hours, undervalue the people around you, not take care of your body, get addicted to caffeine, and pour all of your emotional energy into your work.  You’re literally sprinting and giving all you’ve got to reach whatever finish line you’ve placed in front of you.

In the marketplace, this is called “success” and is celebrated in books and magazines.  In the church, this is called being “sold out” and is celebrated from the pulpit.

Unfortunately though, for the rest of us, we never reach most of those finish lines, so it’s always an illusive carrot that we’re dangling in front of ourselves to fuel our striving.  However, if you do finally make it to one of your arbitrary finish lines at the end of a sprint, you’re in for a rude awakening when you look up and see that you’re actually running a marathon and that sprint that you just “won” was only a 100 meter section of the race.  That great feeling from the win goes away and you either need to find a new sprint to win to try and get that feeling back, or realize that you need to adjust your strategy for the long term.

So where do you find yourself today?

In the next post I’m going to go into what it looks like to be a church filmmaker playing an infinite game – how to have both a godly ambition for excellence in your craft and a peaceful, eternal mindset that fuels everything you do – but for now I want to encourage you to do some reflection and join the discussion.

What sort of finite games have you found yourself stuck in lately?
Share them with me in the comments below.



Ps. Here are a few games that I’ve played over the years: 

“If I can only figure out how to make my videos look like film, I’ll win”  (cue 35mm adapters, DSLRs, Magic Bullet Looks)
“If I can only figure out how to write, direct, shoot, and edit my own idea without my boss or pastor giving input and asking for changes, I’ll win”  (cue years of being a frustrated, overly defensive, know-it-all lone ranger)
“If I can only get a Staff Pick on Vimeo, I’ll win”  (cue jealousy & comparison)


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  • Nicole Franco, FrancoCreative/LinkBook Legacies

    wow, spot on Mr. Francis. Not only for career but for life! When we embrace the here and now, and the process of a journey, the Holy Spirit fills us with purpose and meaning. Anything outside of that is running wild in a hamster wheel. Reminds me of a quote I often refer to when needing to stay in the Infinite Game: “The enemy fills us with regret of the past, and fear of the future, but in the Present, where Christ dwells, the enemy cannot touch us.” Freedom is in the here and now with Jesus, indeed.

  • Rico

    This article reminded me of an anecdote I read:

    A man meets three workers at a building site.
    He asks the first one: “What are you doing?” – “I’m laying bricks.”
    He asks the next one: “What are you doing?” – “I’m building a wall.”
    The man walks up to the third worker and asks him the same question.
    The worker looks up with a smile on his face and says: “I’m building a church.”

    Take aways:
    1. To have the right attitude toward your work, you must see “the church.”
    2. You need to decide which walls you are going to build, i.e. establish your goals.
    3. You have to lay the bricks that are needed to build the wall. Without action, nothing happens.