picture of games people play by eric berne. in the backround there are a bunch of nooks.

Quick Review of Games People Play by Eric Berne


We’re all playing games — and I’m not talking about video games here, or Bridge — but psychological games and mental contests with the people we encounter. In Eric Berne’s landmark book “Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships“, readers are taken on a thought-provoking, and sometimes haunting, journey into the world of psychological games and mental contests that shape our interactions with others. From everyday situations like marriage and social gatherings to the darker aspects of human behavior, Berne offers an intriguing exploration of games and their hidden intentions.

Understanding the Nature of Psychological Games

Games, as Berne describes them, delve into the psychological dynamics at play during our interactions with others. Berne explores our emotional needs and how playing these games fulfills them. Recognition plays a vital role in our lives, and Berne emphasizes its significance, warning about the potential consequences of not receiving enough recognition.

Stimulus hunger has the same relationship to survival of the human organism as food hunger. Long after we leave mother, we still crave her recognition, and as time goes on, each individual compromises this need and individualizes more and more in their quest for recognition.

A movie actor may require hundreds of strokes each week from anonymous and undifferentiated admirers to keep his spinal cord from shriveling, while a scientist may keep physically and mentally healthy on one stroke a year from a respected master.”

Recognition is like emotional nourishment, essential for our well-being.

Uncovering Unconscious Social Interactions

Throughout our lives, we engage in various games during social interactions, often without even realizing it. Berne highlights the moments after these interactions when we unconsciously evaluate the people involved and make decisions about future interactions. This introspective process influences our preferences for spending more time with certain individuals and avoiding others. Through relatable examples, Berne paints a vivid picture of these games, which may sometimes uncomfortably mirror our own behaviors and experiences.

Video Review: Games People Play

5 Key Lessons from Games People Play by Eric Berne

The Impact and Complexity of Psychological Games

Berne’s book provides readers with a fresh perspective on the world. It offers numerous examples and explores different games, the roles people play within them, and how they unfold. While some descriptions may be challenging to grasp fully, the real value of the book lies in those moments of realization, where readers recognize patterns and behaviors that resonate with their own lives. These “aha” moments prompt self-reflection and the potential for personal growth.

Book Verdict: An Essential Read on Human Nature

So, it’s unfortunate that some of the descriptions of the games are beyond my comprehension. I think some are accessible and well-described, but others are just going above my head. Either they are too complicated, or it’s not simplified enough for me to understand as a layman. When this book is good, it’s really good. It acctually contains some of the best pages that I’ve ever read., but there are some parts that I just couldn’t understand. My brain might be too small or something. I don’t know.

Despite occasional complexities, “Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships” is a book that should not be overlooked, especially for those interested in psychology and human nature. With its concise 150 pages, the book offers essential insights into the core principles and mental models that shape human behavior. Berne’s work serves as a starting point for understanding the intricacies of social interactions and provides practical advice on achieving happiness, fostering meaningful relationships, and personal growth.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

Further Reading:

For more essential books on human nature check out my recommendation of 5 Essential Books on Human Nature – from thick to thin!

Find more great books to read on my the Great Books List
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  • Berne, E. (1964). Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. Ballantine Books.

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