Game Theory is the study of group choices. Game Theory has become an important area in the game industry, since game are designed around anticipating what choices a player is most likely to make. In this video we’ll take a look at how game theory works, how game theory can be applied to game design and the basics of how players make choices within a video game.
- [voiceover] Game theory is defined as the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent, rational decision-makers. That definition's a little dense. It might be easier to think of game theory as a blueprint for how people make decisions, which can get pretty complex. Ultimately though, a video game or a game of any type is a long series of player decisions. That makes game theory a really important subject to know about. Game theory is centered on a player's choices, choices which are based on how one player's gains influence the other participants.
Most often, these choices are yours, and yours alone to make. Your personal ethics, beliefs, and behaviors are going to dictate which choices you make. Game theory doesn't just apply to video games, but to a wide range of behavioral relations. It has become a huge area of study, and it's considered an umbrella term for the science of logical decision-making in humans, animals, and computers. Game theory is the best way we have for guessing or planning the player's interaction with the game.
Now we can't just make games totally open-ended. What would be the fun of just wandering the wilderness endlessly? So to put boundaries on game theory and to make the process of constraining the player's interaction with the game, we must specify three elements. One, who are the players of the game? Two, what information and choices will be available to each player at each decision point? And three, what are the payoffs for each outcome? How does the player benefit? There needs to be a benefit, or the player would never choose that particular outcome.
These elements might seem familiar. Because we take these elements into account every time we make a choice, every day, all the time. Every choice has a decision with a more beneficial outcome, but it may not be immediately obvious. The decision doesn't have to benefit us individually or materially. It might benefit a person we care about or standing in a group or society as a whole. On a smaller level, people and players will make decisions that benefit them in some way.
In a game, a player might choose to give up their sword, but they haven't lost a sword. They've gained a friend. Game theory doesn't really predict choices. It just makes everything seem like it's predictable. The primary use of game theory is to describe and model how human populations behave. Game theory assumes players act rationally, but in practice, human behavior often isn't rational. People make choices that may not always be in their best interest or even make sense.
Designers need to integrate these human, sometimes unpredictable behaviors, into their designs. If you have your sights set on becoming a game designer or programmer, you might consider taking a short college course or read a book on scientific game theory. Just a little knowledge in this area will go a long way to helping you understand player choices, actions, and motives in the game you might one day contribute to.
- A brief history of video games
- The phases of game development
- Roles in game development
- Essential programming, art, design, and audio skills
- Choosing a game engine
- Funding options outside the game studio system