Who Introduced Game Theory?


Martha Robinson

Game Theory is a fascinating subject that has intrigued scholars and thinkers for centuries. It is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of strategic decision-making and the analysis of conflict and cooperation between rational individuals.

But who introduced Game Theory? In this article, we will explore the history of Game Theory and the people who played a crucial role in its development.

Early History

The origins of Game Theory can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, and China. The Greek philosopher Plato, in his famous work “The Republic,” discussed the concept of pure strategy games where players would make rational decisions based on their knowledge of their opponents’ moves.

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, in his book “The Art of War,” discussed the importance of strategic thinking in warfare. These early works laid the foundation for Game Theory.

John von Neumann

The modern form of Game Theory was developed by John von Neumann, a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, and computer scientist. In 1928, von Neumann published a paper on the theory of games that provided a mathematical framework for analyzing decision-making processes. He introduced concepts such as zero-sum games, utility functions, and Nash equilibria that are still used today.

Zero-Sum Games

A zero-sum game is a situation where one player’s gain is another player’s loss. This means that the sum of all gains and losses is zero. For example, in chess, if one player wins, it means that the other player loses.

Utility Functions

A utility function is a mathematical representation of an individual’s preferences over different outcomes. It assigns a numerical value to each outcome based on how much satisfaction or utility it provides to the individual.

Nash Equilibrium

A Nash equilibrium is a situation where each player’s strategy is optimal given the strategies of the other players. In other words, no player can improve their outcome by changing their strategy if the other players’ strategies remain unchanged.

Other Contributors

While von Neumann is credited with introducing Game Theory, several other scholars played a crucial role in its development. One of them is Oskar Morgenstern, an Austrian economist who collaborated with von Neumann on the book “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior,” which is considered a seminal work in Game Theory.

Another notable contributor is John Nash, an American mathematician who introduced the concept of non-cooperative games and won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 for his work on Game Theory.


In conclusion, Game Theory has a rich history that dates back to ancient civilizations. However, it was John von Neumann who introduced the modern form of Game Theory that we use today.

His concepts such as zero-sum games, utility functions, and Nash equilibria have become foundational to the study of strategic decision-making. Other contributors such as Oskar Morgenstern and John Nash have also played a crucial role in its development. Game Theory continues to be an important tool for understanding human behavior and decision-making in various fields such as economics, politics, and psychology.