Introducing Game Theory – Part 1

Game Theory is Not Game Studies

I’m encouraged that I’ve been encountering confusion between game theory and game studies.  Encouraged, as I’m hopeful this confusion is a result of both disciplines gaining exposure.  Since its just language getting in the way, perhaps some comparison and contrast will help.

Game theory is a branch of mathematics used to predict and optimize outcomes.  Game studies is the discipline of designing games to increase engagement.

Game theory is often applied to business strategy.  Game studies is applied to increase engagement with customers or in corporate training.

If you’ve ever bluffed in poker, you’re applying game theory.  If you play Farmville or use Foursquare, then you are using products that apply game studies.

This blog post from Mind Your Decisions is a great summary of business and everyday applications and articles about game theory.  This HBR guest blog post, from a leading video game designer, contains excellent insights into game studies.

If you were CEO of a video game company, you’re applying game studies in your products.  If you’re that same CEO trying to decide what action to pursue about software piracy of your games, you need game theory.

Game theory and game studies are both sciences about human behavior.  Game theory is rooted in mathematics.  Game studies is rooted in most of the “ologies” like psychology and anthropology.

I represent Priiva Consulting, a consulting firm that specializes in the application of game theory for strategic decision making.  I recently met Rini Das, CEO of PAKRA, a remarkable firm with a SaaS offering that specializes in the application of games to improve learning, engagement, and efficiency in business processes for sales and support.

If I was an advocate of game studies, I might have formulated this post as a game to increase engagement and learning.  I haven’t.  So just stay tuned here…this is the first in a series of posts to share my experience and the enormous potential of game theory in strategy.

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One response to “Introducing Game Theory – Part 1

  1. The NY Times Magazine is also confused on the terminology.

    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/09/15/magazine/1248069030957/games-theory.html

    Thanks to my friend Dee for pointing this out.

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