Friday, January 20, 2012

Video Games and Game Theory

Can a greater knowledge of game theory provide a significant advantage in video games? One genre of video games that stands out as having a possibility of higher success with this knowledge is MMORPG’s, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. The general idea behind an MMORPG is you, the player, take on a new identity in a fantasy world online. In this game players live the life of their new persona and interact with other players through this identity. The big question is whether a knowledge of game theory will affect decisions made in this virtual world?

One aspect that could be affected by knowledge of game theory is cooperation between players in small groups. In many MMORPG’s there are missions or quests which may sometimes have the option to complete them either alone or with a group. Considering that players act as they would in real life and are “intelligent rational decision-makers,”[1] if a mission can be completed alone with a high chance of success then they will choose not to cooperate with others. However, if the probability of success for working alone is low then that player will choose to work with others. When a group of players decide to work together in order to increase the success of all members, this is an example of a Non-zero sum game. If all the players can all succeed or fail together it’s called a non-zero-sum. While all players now all have a higher chance of success, the possibility of failure is still present. Many players may use this aspect of game theory without realizing this terminology. The difference between someone who knows what a non-zero sum is and someone who does not is a player with this knowledge can use it to create good odds of success but realizes that if they have too many players in the group then, although success is much higher, the payoff will be lower because it needs to be split between the group.

[1] Roger B. Myerson (1991). Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict, Harvard University Press, p.1. Chapter-preview links, pp. vii-xi

1 comment:

  1. From my limited understanding, there is an incentive for players with limited expertise (aka noobs) to leech off of other stronger players. If you have a strong network (that is, if you can add a reputation element to the game) and only invite those that your network believe can benefit the group, you have a more successful experience. Unfortunately, if you have a real-life network, dumping your best friends isn't so easy. ;P