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4:48pm on Thursday, 19th June, 2008:

Game Theory in Theory


I went to a workshop at the university today about Game Theory. There were people there from departments such as Economics, Mathematics, Finance, Psychology and Literature, all discussing the possibility of putting on an inter-disciplinary course on Game Theory.

After two and a half hours, there seemed to be a consensus that such a course was a viable possibility (even the literature person agreed), but Iwon't be sending any of my students to it. Everyone but me and the Maths guy was interested in using Game Theory to explain things; I was interested in using it to make games fun. I want Game Theory to throw up situations which don't suggest an optimum playing strategy, not ones that do.

The Maths guy was interested only in the mathematics of Game Theory, so this was actually of interest to him; a mathematical treatment of games where fun is a factor was something new. I spoke to him for half an hour afterwards, and there's a possibility we could do something together. He can certainly take a lecture or two in my games course when it's finally sorted out following the reorganisation.

For the others, though, game theory was an explanatory tool, not a generative mechanism. That's fair enough, but yet another example of the co-opting of something game-related that has intrinsic worth to other disciplines. What the psychologists and economists discover using Game Theory may have game design applications, but we'll only find out by examining the left-overs after they've feasted at the table.

Games and fun, together as a concept: whatever next?

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).