When it comes to the sport of photography, here is the game: If the camera I am lugging around captures the light and motion better then my phone can, it's a win. If not, what's the point.... I lose this game alot. But I am going to argue that it doesn't matter because photography is an infinite game.
What is an Infinite Game?
Simon Sinek's concept of the "infinite game" is one of those ideas that completely changed how I loot at the world. Here is the concept: Activities, businesses, hobbies, goals and pursuits that do not have a defined end-point or a clear set of rules are infinite games. In contrast, "finite games" like baseball or football are defined by known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective (winning).
The key idea here is that the infinite game is more about ongoing improvement, adaptation, and change, rather than reaching a specific goal or victory. If you have a hobby, thinking about it as an infinite game, defining your own scorekeeping system, and then competing with an ever changing set of players as you grow is a shift in perspective that, for me, was a big adjustment in perspective.
In the infinite game everything within the laws of physics, law and ethics is applicable because there are no rules. Infinite game = infinite strategy because everything is fair in this game.
Photography Is an Infinite Game
So... if you accept Sinek's premise, an argument can be made that the hobby (sport) of photography is an infinite game:
No Defined End Point:
In photography, there is no 'final win' or ultimate goal that signifies the end of the activity. Photographers continue to evolve their skills, experiment with new techniques, and capture different subjects indefinitely.
Evolving Participants and Rules:
The players in the field of photography are constantly changing, with new photographers entering and others leaving. Similarly, the 'rules' – in terms of technology (cameras, AIs), styles, and trends – are also in continual flux. There is no finish line.
This aligns with the concept of the infinite game, where players and rules are not fixed. Anything within the laws of physics, law and ethics are fair in an infinite game.
Adaptation and Evolution:
In an infinite game, the focus is on adapting and thriving amidst ongoing change. Photography requires continual learning and adaptation, whether it's in response to new technology (like the transition from film to digital), changing artistic trends, or evolving cultural contexts.
In the fall of 2022 I started the sport of photography with my beloved $100 Cannon Rebel T1i. The photo image of the bird in flight for this post was shot with a modern Fujifilm XH2. My Cannon is simple, it was fast, I "got off zero" with 12 year old technology. The XH2 has functions I don't even understand yet.
Choose your gear, choose your strategy, choose your rivals. It's all fair in the infinite game because the purpose is to adapt and improve.
Purpose Over Victory:
In the infinite game, the emphasis is on playing for a purpose rather than for the sake of winning. In photography, this could be seen in the pursuit of artistic expression, storytelling, capturing history, or personal fulfillment, rather than competing to be 'the best' photographer.
Right now I am in an all out competition with my phone. Can I shoot better by lugging around a heavy digital camera and lens than I can with a phone? As a beginner, I lose this game alot. But my purpose is to improve.... once I consistently shoot better than I can with a phone than my purpose may become artistic expression, storytelling, etc. But I'm not competing to be the best, my purpose is to be better than I was yesterday.
Legacy and Contribution:
Another aspect of the infinite game is the focus on legacy and contributing to the broader field. Many photographers work not just for personal gain but also to contribute to the art of photography, to influence others, and to leave a lasting impact. This would be the apex of the sport...
So... if you didn't know what an infinite game is before reading this, now you know.
I think that this concept applies to any hobby. For me, shifting the word "hobby" (something I do passively from time to time) to "game" or "sport" forces me to look at it in a fresh new way.
What's your game?