What Is Game Theory Used For?


Vincent White

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that studies decision-making in situations where multiple parties are involved and each party’s outcome depends not only on their own choices but also on the choices of others. It has applications in various fields such as economics, political science, psychology, biology, computer science, and more. In this article, we will explore what game theory is used for.

Applications of Game Theory


Game theory is widely used in economics to study market competition, pricing strategies, and bargaining. For example, game theory can be used to analyze the behavior of firms in oligopoly markets where a few large firms dominate the industry. It can help predict how firms will react to changes in prices or production levels by their competitors.

Political Science

Game theory has been applied to political science to study international relations and conflict resolution. It can help policymakers understand how countries make decisions and interact with each other in situations of conflict or cooperation.


In biology, game theory is used to understand the behavior of animals and how they interact with their environment and other animals. For example, it can help explain why some species cooperate while others compete for resources.

Computer Science

Game theory has become increasingly important in computer science due to the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It can be used to develop algorithms for decision-making in complex environments such as autonomous vehicles or game-playing robots.

Examples of Game Theory in Practice

  • Prisoner’s Dilemma: This classic example involves two suspects who are arrested for a crime but have no evidence against each other. They are given the option to confess or remain silent. If both remain silent, they will both serve a short sentence for a lesser charge. However, if one confesses and the other remains silent, the confessor will go free, and the other will serve a longer sentence. If both confess, they will both serve a longer sentence. The optimal strategy in this game depends on what the other player does.
  • Tragedy of the Commons: This scenario involves a shared resource such as a pasture or fishing ground.

    Each person can either use the resource to their advantage or preserve it for future use by others. If everyone uses it to their advantage, the resource will become depleted, leading to a worse outcome for everyone. This game demonstrates the challenges of cooperation and collective action.

  • Auction: Auctions are classic examples of game theory in practice. Bidders must decide how much they are willing to pay for an item without knowing how much others are willing to pay. The winner is typically the highest bidder, but they may end up paying more than they expected if others bid aggressively.


Game theory is a powerful tool for understanding decision-making in complex situations where multiple parties are involved. Its applications in economics, political science, biology, and computer science have helped us understand everything from market competition to animal behavior. By studying games like the Prisoner’s Dilemma or Tragedy of the Commons, we can better understand how people make decisions and interact with each other in real-world situations.