Learning Game Theory

Learning Together: Game Theory

Truth be told, 6 months ago, we had a lot of projects that we would do together but I never got round to blogging about. Now, we’ve put some of these activities on hold because we have other priorities. Basically, life got in the way. But, now we’ve found a new pastime that we’re equally passionate about to partake in together! We’re learning Game Theory together.

Back Story

So, Game Theory may seem a bit random, but here’s how we got round to bringing it into our lives. It all started off with me binge watching Love Island. Yes, THAT Love Island. If you live in England, it is practically impossible to be alive without hearing about Love Island. It’s basically a British reality TV competition where a handful of singles live in a Mallorcan villa to “look for love”. The producers stir up drama by introducing new contestants and holding “re-couplings” as well as making the contestants vote out their peers. Anyone not in a couple gets eliminated. Anyway, how did binge watching this mind-numbing show lead to learning about Game Theory?

One of the contestants (Olivia) had a dilemma where she could either stay safe in her couple or risk her villa security by dumping the guy and trying for the new guy that she “fancied”. I wondered about her decision making process which led me to do a little research into Game Theory. Next thing, I asked Juan if he was familiar with Game Theory. Turns out we’re both interested in it, but don’t know much about it apart from the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Therefore, we decided to enroll on a Coursera course on Game Theory together. I also decided to create a new blog called Trashy Game Theory to facilitate my learning by doing analyses on rationality and decision making in reality shows! What better way to counteract the brain rot?


We were picking between two Coursera Game Theory courses: one by Stanford and one by University of Tokyo. Since the Tokyo course is more aimed at elementary level learners, we chose to pick that and then move onto the Stanford course later. The Tokyo course also seemed much more concise and succinct which matches our learning style.

If you’re interested in Game Theory or about decision making behaviour, I strongly recommend taking this class. There are 4 modules covering the basics in a simple way with lots of tangible real life examples. Within watching the first couple of lectures, we were able to project our new knowledge of Payoff tables to our own scenarios, like the “dilemma” of early access games.

Early Access Games example – actual GAME theory

Juan brought up his frustration that nowadays, game developers rarely end up finishing their games. With the dawn of early access, the trend seems to be to take the gamer’s money and use it for the next project instead of actually finishing the game that they’ve funded for. I realised that this is similar to a Prisoner’s Dilemma. It would benefit the gamer and the developer for the developer to finish the game after allowing early access (obvious, I know) but because they can get away with not finishing games, they can actually profit more by charging for early access and not deliver a finished product.

Juan drew up this Payoff table to illustrate what the Nash equilibrium would be. We haven’t got so far yet to be able to analyse what this actually MEANS but for now, this was super fun to work out and analyse together!

Payoff Table
Basically, Game Developers should finish their games.

Simple Card Game

Another reason why we really enjoyed taking this class together was because it has a lot of interactive elements. One of the “homeworks” was to play a simple card game together and record our results, as well as what we were thinking during the game. You only need 8 cards in this game (4 each). For the red player, they win if both players show a King, or if both players show different cards (that aren’t Kings). For the black player, it’s the reverse: they win if only one player shows a King or if both players show the same cards.

So, this game seems easy enough, it’s probably so simple that you could find it boring! But it was actually unexpectedly fun to play, especially because we’re both quite competitive. I ended up losing but I found that it was because I caught onto Juan’s strategy of showing a King. He kept showing a King and I kept not showing my King because I was anticipating that he would change cards. In reality, I think he also figured out my strategy, or I was just overthinking too much; which meant I lost the game!

We’re really excited to submit our findings and see what the results of this game means in terms of Game Theory! If you are also interested in more Game Theory posts, check out my new blog: Trashy Game Theory. I’ll be posting my game theory related content there

Until next time, hasta luego!

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