For the purpose of getting acquainted with communication games, and how transactional analysis (TA) can help you gain a different perspective, first we must define a game.
Communication games are described as follows:
“A game is an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Descriptively, it is a recurring set of transactions… with a concealed motivation… or gimmick.” Eric Berne
To sum up, ego states (partners) exchange information in various forms to come to an outcome which depends on the communication partners. Although there are no strict rules, you will notice how any variations can lead to a pause in the game and maybe even an entirely new game. Often, the fluctuations in the communication flow are caused by the intentions of partners, the audience present, or an external cause. Reading this you must think that it can become somewhat chaotic in these schemes, but do not think that the dynamics of a relationship between two partners can simply disappear. An example to illustrate will be that person you have a grudge with, and it seems you can “tune in” to a very specific emotion every time you meet him or her.
This is why communication games are so meaningful to realise and study – as dynamics between you and another person form, they can permanently change you or the way you view a situation, thus grow into a part of your experience and motivation. Furthermore, we all sometimes tend to attribute our motivation to a single moment when we became determined to do something. Athletes can be heard speaking of their glorified rival, or pop-fiction “arch nemesis”, and other can rise up to competing against themselves. This, too, is an example of how dynamics within or around us form our lives. Last but not least, communication is evident on an internal level, depending on authors and model.
The first communication game I want to mention can take place with a partner in our personal or work life. A very neat trick can start an exchange which can reveal a lot about a person. But since we all tend to act reserved in our daily routines, the instigator (for the purpose of this post) changes the communication perspective and pretends to be unskilled or unknowledgeable in an area, thus tempting the parent ego state of the partner to activate. In the course of the exchange the ego states might level up at adult, thus using the starting momentum to develop a conversation. Communication tricks like this ice-breaker are usually used when the starting positions of both partners are different yet put into a group, or team work is expected from them.
To clarify the term “activate” above, it would normally mean that the partner would be more willing to share information or symbolically agree to engage in the conversation. Please keep in mind that taking the role of a partner is happening through a statement, so your communication style will be revealed. This same trick, or short communication game, can also take extreme forms, revealing complete failure to establish contact. The latter is also a revealing outcome, which has corresponding consequences.