In “Rules of the Game,” Waverly Jong is a dynamic character: one who changes over the course of the story. Amy Tan explores the girl’s growth in relationship to her mother and to her own sense of self. Waverly initially is pleased to discover a game that brings her joy and requires a particular kind of intellectual analysis, something she had not previously realized she possessed. The progressive self-awareness that the author presents includes Waverly’s understanding that excelling at something is not always enough to make it worth continuing, as well as the necessity of prioritizing one’s activities.
Although the story is about the girl’s engagement with chess, it is also about her changing relationship with her mother. Part of the reason for Waverly’s changing is that she understands her mother is unlikely or unable to do so. Waverly had understood that her mother had a strong personality and that she had her daughter’s best interests at heart. Previously, the young girl had accepted her mother’s judgments in her choice of activities and understood that the pressure she exerted demonstrated confidence in her daughter’s ability to succeed, as well as her acceptance of American ideals of self-perfection. Waverly’s insights into her own capabilities and desires—the "invisible strength" she possesses—grow along with her perceptions about her mother’s virtues and flaws.