Book Review
Dr Kate Culley
ST3, Lighthouse Medical Practice,
Games people play
the psychology of human relationships
Eric Berne
The author- Eric Berne
• Canadian , born 1910
• Doctor. Trained in USA; psychiatry,
psychotherapy and analysis
• Numerous other texts
• Creator of transactional analysis.
• Died MI in 1970 age 60.
The book
International best seller
First published USA 1964
Sequel to transactional analysis
162 pages
Divided into 4 sections
Analysis of games
Thesaurus of games
Beyond games
• Follows on from prequel transactional analysis
• Brief overview social psychiatry
• Stroking – fundamental unit of social action.
Exchange of strokes = transaction
• Defines social intercourse + structuring of time
– Stimulus hunger
– Recognition hunger
– Structure hunger
• ‘human life is mainly a process of filling in time
until the arrival of death’
Part 1 – analysis of games
• Introduces theory necessary for understanding of
• Describes structural and transactional analysis
• Personality structure and ego states
– Parent
– Adult
– Child
• Differentiates between transactions, rituals and
procedures, pastimes and games
• Defines nature and function of games
So what are games?
• Recurring set of transactions with a predictable
outcome but concealed motivation
• Sandwiched between pastimes and intimacy
• Fill majority of social intercourse
• Handed down the generations
• Generally learnt form parents in early childhood
• Determine who we pick as friends/social circle
• Function is reward of pay off/culmination
• Structure our time – waiting for Santa Claus...
• Shape our destiny?
• Allow some form of intimacy in day to day lives
Part 2 – thesaurus of games
• Divided into life games, marital, party,
underworld, consulting room, and good games
• Breaks down into thesis, aim, roles, dynamics,
examples, paradigm, moves, advantages, related
• ‘Why don't you yes but’ – first ever game
discovered – party game
• Commonest marital game – ‘if it weren't for you’
Part 3 – beyond games
• Sort of Epilogue
• Defines significance of games in terms of
historical/ cultural/ social and personal
• Describes the players; “sulk” “jerk”
• Model example of game free transaction
• Defines autonomy as ultimate aim – 3 parts
– Awareness
– Spontaneity
– Intimacy
Study of human behaviour
Good basic overview of TA
Fascinating intro to concepts of social psychiatry and personality
Provides framework to understand human relationships
Encourages self analysis and that of others
Not any easy read! Can be read as stand alone text but would likely
benefit from having read previous/background psychotherapy
Complex to follow – cross reference to parts not yet read
Worked examples excellent and help understand but inconsistent differ in detail and complexity
In parts outdated and very rooted in American culture
Games themselves not evidence based - Based on consulting room
observations and theory
Well worth reading – might learn something about yourself or
those closest to you!
Thank you!
Any questions?