What Type of Game Can Be Solved With Game Theory?


Martha Robinson

Game theory is a fascinating area of study that has gained immense popularity in recent years, particularly in the field of economics and social sciences. It is a mathematical model that aims to analyze the way people make decisions and interact with each other in strategic situations. The theory offers insights into how rational individuals can reach optimal outcomes by taking into account the actions of others.

But what kind of games can be solved using game theory? Let’s explore some examples.

Zero-Sum Games

One prominent type of game that can be analyzed using game theory is the zero-sum game. In this type of game, the total utility or payoff gained by one player is equal to the total loss or penalty incurred by another player. In other words, any gain made by one player comes at the expense of another player’s loss.

Zero-sum games are commonly found in competitive scenarios such as sports, poker, and military conflicts. Game theory can help players determine optimal strategies based on their opponent’s moves, leading to better outcomes.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Another classic example of a game that can be solved with game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma. In this scenario, two suspects are arrested and put in separate cells. Each prisoner is given a choice: either confess to the crime or remain silent.

If both prisoners remain silent, they will each receive a minor sentence for a lesser crime they committed together. If one confesses while the other remains silent, the confessor will receive no sentence while their accomplice will face a harsh penalty for not cooperating. If both confess, they will both receive moderate sentences.

Game theory helps us understand why individuals may choose to cooperate or defect in such situations. By analyzing potential payoffs and outcomes, it can guide individuals towards more beneficial decisions.

Non-Zero Sum Games

Not all games are zero-sum; many involve multiple players with varying degrees of cooperation and competition. These are called non-zero sum games, and they can be more complex to analyze.

Prisoner’s Dilemma with Multiple Players

An example of a non-zero sum game is the prisoner’s dilemma played by multiple players. In this scenario, several suspects are arrested, and each is given a choice to cooperate or defect.

Game theory can help analyze the dynamics of such games and identify potential outcomes based on each player’s decision. It can also assist in predicting how alliances may form and how cooperation may be achieved.


Game theory is a powerful tool that can help us understand complex scenarios involving strategic decisions. From zero-sum games like poker and military conflicts to non-zero sum games like business negotiations and environmental agreements, game theory has broad applications across various fields.

By using game theory, we can analyze the potential outcomes of different decisions and identify optimal strategies for achieving our goals. Whether you’re playing a game or making strategic decisions in your personal or professional life, understanding the principles of game theory can help you make better choices.