What Is the Meaning of Game Theory?


Martha Robinson

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of strategic decision-making in situations where multiple players are involved. It is a tool used to analyze and understand the behavior of individuals in competitive or cooperative situations. In this article, we will explore the meaning of game theory and its importance in various fields, such as economics, political science, and psychology.

The Basics of Game Theory

Game theory involves analyzing different strategies that players can use to achieve their goals in a given situation. It assumes that each player is rational and will make choices based on their own self-interest. The outcome of the game is determined by the combination of all players’ strategies.

There are two types of games – cooperative and non-cooperative. In cooperative games, players collaborate to achieve a common goal, whereas in non-cooperative games, each player acts independently to maximize their own payoff.

Elements of a Game

Every game has three basic components – players, strategies, and payoffs. Players are the individuals or groups who participate in the game.

Strategies refer to the choices available to each player for achieving their goals. Payoffs are the rewards or outcomes that result from each player’s choice.

Types of Games

Games can be classified into several categories based on their characteristics:

  • Zero-sum games – In these games, one player’s gain is another player’s loss.
  • Non-zero-sum games – In these games, both players can gain or lose.
  • Simultaneous games – In these games, all players make their decisions at the same time.
  • Sequential games – In these games, players make their decisions sequentially based on previous moves.

The Importance of Game Theory

Game theory has numerous applications in various fields, including:


Game theory is used extensively in economics to analyze markets, pricing strategies, and competition between firms. It helps economists understand how individuals and firms make decisions based on their self-interest and how they interact with other players in the market.

Political Science

Game theory is also used in political science to analyze voting behavior, bargaining between countries, and international relations. It helps policymakers understand the incentives and motivations of different actors in a given situation.


Game theory is used in psychology to study decision-making behavior and social interactions. It helps psychologists understand how individuals make choices based on their perceived benefits and risks.


In conclusion, game theory is an important tool for understanding the behavior of individuals in competitive or cooperative situations. By analyzing players’ strategies and payoffs, game theory provides insights into various fields such as economics, political science, and psychology. Its applications are diverse and far-reaching, making it an essential concept to understand for anyone interested in strategic decision-making.