The Importance of Games

Hi, I am Tom Barnett, and for those of you who know me this will come to no surprise, but for the rest, I must admit, I am a huge game nerd. The first stereotypes that come to mind when you think of a game nerd are probably true about me. I do, in fact, spend every Friday night I can gathering all my friends to play board game after board game. But my fascination with games goes deeper, the idea of competition, of matching wits, has always been exciting for me. And so for my independent I decided to meld my passion for games with my passion for math (I did say I was a nerd).

Game Theory is the obvious intersection of the two, using math to determine the correct action in strategic scenarios. And just to be clear, these strategic scenarios are not just games of Monopoly, but real world areas such as political science, law, and biology. A strategic setting is any situation of interdependence, in which “one person’s behavior affects another person’s well being, either positively or negatively,” (Watson 1). And when you start to think about it, that is almost every decision we make.

My hope for this blog, which I probably should have mentioned sooner, is to impart what I learn about game theory in my studies to any reader. Don’t be scared, I won’t be going into long mathematical proofs, but ways that game theory can apply to the decisions we make each day. Today I want to explain one simple concept, which is the importance of payoffs in game theory. Payoffs are what each player in a situation gets out of the combined decision of all players. The importance of this is quite simple, it is going to be hard to get where you want unless you know where you want to go. It’s simple to know your own payoffs, but it can be tricky to learn the payoffs of the other players. However it is critical, as you can only make the best decision after you have considered how all other players in the situation will behave. So since you aren’t the only one who affects the outcome of your life, keep in mind what other people want and how it affects you. Doing so might just make it easier to get where you want to go.

But wait, that’s not all. After I spend this first semester studying game theory, I plan to do a study on implicit bias with a basis of game theory. And while that may seem like an odd basis for a study, I will not be the first to do such a thing. Race, Gender, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma: A Study in Social Dilemma Cooperation is an actual study that was done by Victor Romano for his dissertation. So my plan is to study what is needed for a research study, and then create and conduct one of my own. Hopefully you will stick around reading my blog to learn how that goes.

Thanks for reading.

Also, for anyone who wants to follow their own interest in game theory, here are a few resources:

Work Cited:

Watson, Joel. Strategy: An Introduction to Game Theory. New York (NY),: Norton, 2013. Print.


1 thought on “The Importance of Games

  1. aidanpeterson

    I remember when Joe Zhu did an independent study on this subject! I loved listening to his presentation and reading his blogs, looking forward to learning about your findings.


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