What Is Classical Game Theory?


Jane Flores

Classical Game Theory is a mathematical approach that studies the decision-making process of individuals, groups, and organizations in situations where the outcome depends on the choices of all involved parties. By analyzing different strategies and their potential outcomes, Classical Game Theory provides a framework for understanding and predicting behavior in various fields such as economics, political science, psychology, and biology.

The Basics of Classical Game Theory

In Classical Game Theory, a game consists of players who make choices based on their goals and beliefs about the other players’ choices. Each player has a set of possible actions or strategies that they can choose from. The outcome of the game depends on the combination of strategies chosen by all players.

To analyze a game using Classical Game Theory, we use a matrix called a payoff matrix. The payoff matrix shows the possible outcomes for each combination of strategies that the players can choose. Each outcome is associated with a numerical value called a payoff which reflects the utility or satisfaction that each player gets from that outcome.

Types of Games

Classical Game Theory classifies games into different types based on their characteristics. One common classification is as follows:

  • Simultaneous Games: In simultaneous games, all players make their decisions at the same time without knowing what decisions others will make.
  • Sequential Games: In sequential games, players make their decisions in turn based on what they know about previous players’ decisions.
  • Zero-Sum Games: In zero-sum games, one player’s gain is another player’s loss.
  • Non-Zero-Sum Games: In non-zero-sum games, there can be mutual gains or losses for all players.

Nash Equilibrium

A Nash Equilibrium is a set of strategies where no player can improve their payoff by changing their strategy, assuming that all other players keep their strategies unchanged. In other words, a Nash Equilibrium is a stable outcome where no player has an incentive to deviate from their chosen strategy.

Applications of Classical Game Theory

Classical Game Theory has numerous applications in various fields. For example, in economics, it can be used to study market competition and pricing strategies.

In political science, it can be used to analyze voting behavior and bargaining processes. In psychology, it can be used to study social dilemmas and cooperation.


In summary, Classical Game Theory provides a mathematical framework for analyzing decision-making in situations where the outcomes depend on the choices of all parties involved. By using payoff matrices and Nash Equilibria, we can model and predict behavior in different types of games with various applications in economics, political science, psychology, and biology.