On Gaming and Game Theory

by Martin Shubik

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Defines some game theory terms and explores the relationship between game theory and gaming. In a gaming exercise, people act out situations for experimental, training, or operational purposes. Game theory is a branch of abstract mathematics concerned with goal-oriented conflict and cooperation. It assumes that all are equally knowledgeable, quick-thinking, dispassionate, and mathematically skilled, whereas gaming often serves to reveal just how people really do act and what the rules and goals really are. Formal game theoretic analysis is valuable in planning or evaluating any serious operational game. Deviation from the game theory outcome is itself an important finding, providing measures of power, skill, social structure, or motivation. It may reveal that the game as played is not what the designer intended. Concepts such as side payments and games of status call attention to players' motivations that have been overlooked.

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