What Is the Best Definition for Game Theory?


Vincent White

Game theory is a field of study that deals with strategic decision-making. It is commonly used in economics, political science, and psychology to understand how people make decisions in situations where the outcome depends on the choices of others. In this article, we will explore the best definition for game theory and its applications.

What is Game Theory?

Game theory is a mathematical framework that studies the behavior of decision-makers in situations where the outcome depends on the actions of other participants. It provides a way to analyze and understand strategic interactions between individuals or groups.

The central concept of game theory is the “game,” which is defined as a situation where two or more players make choices that affect each other’s outcomes. Each player has a set of possible actions they can take, and each action leads to a different outcome.

The Elements of a Game

In game theory, every game has three essential elements: players, strategies, and outcomes.

  • Players: The individuals or groups that are involved in the game.
  • Strategies: The possible actions that each player can take.
  • Outcomes: The results that occur based on the interactions between players’ strategies.

The Types of Games

There are several types of games in game theory. Some common examples include:

  • Zero-sum games: A zero-sum game is one where one player’s gain equals another player’s loss. These games typically involve competition, such as poker or chess.
  • Non-zero-sum games: A non-zero-sum game is one where both players can benefit or lose from their actions.

    These games often involve cooperation, such as bargaining or negotiations.

  • Sequential games: A sequential game is one where players take turns making decisions. These games require players to anticipate the actions of others and plan accordingly.

Applications of Game Theory

Game theory has many applications in various fields, including economics, political science, and psychology.

In economics, game theory is used to study the behavior of firms in markets. It helps economists understand how firms make decisions about pricing and production when they are competing with other firms.

In political science, game theory is used to study international relations. It helps policymakers understand how countries make decisions about trade, defense, and alliances.

In psychology, game theory is used to study social behavior. It helps psychologists understand how people make decisions in situations where their actions affect others.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

One of the most famous games in game theory is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In this game, two criminals are arrested and put in separate cells. They are given the option to confess or remain silent.

If both confess, they each receive a five-year sentence. If one confesses and the other remains silent, the confessor receives a reduced sentence of two years while the other receives a ten-year sentence. If both remain silent, they each receive a one-year sentence for a lesser charge.

This game demonstrates how individuals can make suboptimal choices when they are not able to communicate or trust each other.


Game theory provides a powerful tool for analyzing strategic decision-making in various fields. Its applications range from economics to psychology and international relations. Understanding game theory can help individuals make better decisions in situations where their choices affect others’ outcomes.