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Game Theory

Characteristics Of Games

An essential feature of any game is conflict between two or more players resulting in a win for some and a loss for others. Additionally, games have other characteristics which make them playable. There is a way to start the game. There are defined choices players can make for any situation that can arise in the game. During each move, single players are forced to make choices or the choices are assigned by random devices (such as dice). Finally, the game ends after a set number of moves and a winner is declared. Obviously, games such as chess or checkers have these characteristics, but other situations such as military battles or animal behavior also exhibit similar traits.

During any game, players make choices based on the information available. Games are therefore classified by the type of information that players have available when making choices. A game such as checkers or chess is called a "game of perfect information." In these games, each player makes choices with the full knowledge of every move made previously during the game, whether by herself or her opponent. Also, for these games there theoretically exists one optimal pure strategy for each player which guarantees the best outcome regardless of the strategy employed by the opponent. A game like poker is a "game of imperfect knowledge" because players make their decisions without knowing which cards are left in the deck. The best play in these types of games relies upon a probabilistic strategy and, as such, the outcome can not be guaranteed.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Formate to GastropodaGame Theory - Characteristics Of Games, Analysis Of Zero-sum, Two-player Games, Nonzero-sum Games