Game Theory – Solving the Prisoners’ Dilemma

A game is a carefully structured form of interactive play, normally undertaken for fun or entertainment, and occasionally utilised as a teaching tool. Games are very different from work, which typically are carried out for monetary remuneration, and from literature, which almost always are an expression of personal or artistic elements. However, a game is fundamentally different from other forms of entertainment, for the reason that it is usually initiated and enjoyed by the player himself. This fact may be taken to imply that a game has to be interesting in order to be meaningful, or even valuable as a learning tool, but this is not necessarily so. Rather, the value of a game can be determined not by its superficial qualities but by how well it satisfies the requirements of the person playing it.


Game theory states that there are three basic principles, namely equilibrium, conflict and motivation. According to game theory, in any game, there will be a set of goals or objectives, a set of players, and a set of rules specifying how these players can interact with each other. Each player is to choose a path through the game, following the logic of the game. The game results are unpredictable, since all players can influence them, either through use of strategies or luck. This makes the game less interesting for spectators, but also makes it more interesting for players.

A major component of game theory is understanding how to best present certain aspects of the game, both to the players and to other players. One of the most important aspects is the prisoner’s dilemma. The prisoner’s dilemma is considered to be one of the most common games, where a player is required to make a decision between two different choices. These decisions can be as simple as choosing one member of a pair, or as complex as choosing a single character among many. The problem with this type of dilemma is that, it is believed that a player may use strategy to “game” the system, by choosing a very clever character, thus ensuring that they get away with a certain “crime”.

Game theory shows that there are two different ways to approach the prisoner’s dilemma. The first way is through economic models, wherein a player takes the time to learn about the characteristics of a particular prisoner and how certain factors affect that prisoner’s decision making. The second way is through a Nash equilibrium, where a player learns the rules of the game and then chooses strategies according to those rules.

Economic models assume that players know what prisoners are, namely people who have specific desires and are therefore likely to give up part of their holdings to satisfy those needs. Therefore, if we assume that all people have such desires, then all people also have equal chances of choosing the Prisoners’ Dilemma. However, the Nash equilibrium suggests that the Prisoners’ Dilemma is not random but dependent upon certain external factors. For instance, if a player knows that a certain Prisoner has the ability to make extra money, then the player would be more inclined to cooperate rather than defect. The Nash equilibrium then assumes that if all these external factors are balanced out, then the Prisoners’ Dilemma will cease to exist and the game will remain purely a mathematical simulation.

The prisoner’s dilemma can also be solved through dictator games. In a dictator game, all the members of a community have equal skills. Then, each player receives a dollar and all players simultaneously bet that a certain number of dollars will fall under the blindfold of the leader of the community (usually referred to as the “leader”). If the group fails to reach the required number of dollars, then the leader of the community has the option of changing the rules, starting over, or spending the newfound wealth to get more shares of the currency in play. This form of economic models is popular among many researchers studying complex problems in game theory.