Is Game Theory Applicable in Real Life?


Vincent White

Game theory is a mathematical framework that studies the interactions between individuals or groups in strategic situations. It’s widely used in economics, political science, and psychology to analyze decision-making processes in a competitive environment. However, the question arises whether game theory is applicable in real life or not.

What is Game Theory?
Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of rational behavior in strategic situations where the outcome depends on the actions of multiple actors. The central idea of game theory is to model these interactions as formal games with well-defined rules, payoffs, and strategies. The players’ objective is to maximize their own utility or payoff by anticipating their opponents’ moves and responding accordingly.

Types of Games
There are various types of games that game theory focuses on, some of which are:

Prisoner’s Dilemma

This is a classic example of a non-zero-sum game where two individuals are arrested for committing a crime together but are kept separately without communication. Each prisoner has two choices: to cooperate with his partner by staying silent or betraying him by confessing.

If both prisoners stay silent, they get a short sentence. If both confess, they get a long sentence. However, if one confesses and the other stays silent, the confessor goes free while the other gets a harsher sentence.

Battle of Sexes

This game involves two individuals who want to meet each other but have different preferences for what they want to do. If they both go to their preferred activity, they will be happier than if they do what their partner wants to do.

Ultimatum Game

In this game, one player proposes how to divide a sum of money between them and another player. The second player can either accept or reject this offer.

If they accept it, they both get the money as proposed. But if they reject it, both players get nothing.

Applications of Game Theory in Real Life
Game theory has many useful applications in real life, such as:


Game theory is used extensively in economic analysis to study markets, pricing strategies, and industrial organization. It helps to predict the behavior of firms and consumers in competitive environments and identify optimal pricing strategies.

Poltical Science

In political science, game theory is used to model international relations, voting behavior, and negotiation processes. It helps to predict the outcomes of elections and analyze the bargaining power of different nations.


Game theory is also used in biology to study animal behavior, evolution, and population dynamics. It helps to understand how natural selection operates and how different species interact with each other.

Limitations of Game Theory
While game theory has many useful applications in various fields, it has some limitations that need to be considered. For instance:

No Predictive Power

Game theory cannot predict the outcome of any particular game or situation with certainty. It only provides a framework for analyzing strategic interactions between individuals or groups based on assumptions about their preferences and beliefs.

Simplicity Assumptions

Game theory relies on a set of simplifying assumptions about human behavior that may not always hold true in real life situations. For example, it assumes that individuals are rational decision-makers who always seek to maximize their own utility or payoff.

In conclusion, game theory is a powerful tool for analyzing strategic interactions between individuals or groups in many fields such as economics, political science, psychology, and biology. While it has some limitations regarding predictive power and simplifying assumptions about human behavior, its applications are widespread and constantly evolving. Therefore, game theory can indeed be applied in real life situations to understand and predict strategic decision-making processes.