Game Theory

Game Theory

By: Julia Southwick

Editor’s Note: I wrote this article to submit to the TCBOK and look forward to submitting it in the future. For now, please enjoy reading about game theory!

What is Game Theory?

Screen grab from Game Theory: Among Us, The 300 IQ Impostor Strategy That Wins EVERY TIME. Image description: A blue background with white text reading “Game Theory: The study of constructing mathematical models to analyze strategic interactions among people trying to make rational decisions.”

Types of Games

There are as many as 14 different types of games in Game Theory, but I will focus on the five that can easily relate to Tech Comm: simultaneous/sequential, perfect and imperfect information, evolutionary game theory, metagames, and zero-sum games.

Simultaneous / sequential

In simultaneous games, players move at the same time or are unaware of what the other players did. These games are also called normal form or strategy games and can be denoted by decision trees. In sequential or extensive games, the players are somewhat aware of what the previous players’ actions were. These games are denoted by payoff matrices.

Perfect information and imperfect information

A perfect or symmetric information game is one where all players know what the actions previously made by the others are. Examples of perfect information games are chess, tic-tac-toe, and checkers. Most games are imperfect or asymmetric information games. Some examples of imperfect information games are tic-tac-toe, checkers, poker, and bridge.

Evolutionary game theory

Evolutionary game theory is where players adjust their strategy over time using such rules as imitation, optimization, or survival of the fittest. These rules are not always logical or wise, but still drive players’ choices.

  • Game theoretical analysis/design of communication networks
    • Network pricing
    • Peer-to-peer and overlay networks
    • Information theoretical analysis
    • Cognitive radio networks (a radio that can be programmed and configured dynamically to use the best wireless channels)
    • Security and privacy


A metagame is any approach to a game that uses information outside of the actual rules of the game to affect the gameplay. 

  • General game-theoretic methodologies and techniques
    • Efficiency loss compared with optimization model (i.e., price of anarchy – measures how the efficiency of a system degrades due to selfish behavior of its agents)
    • Effects of bounded rationality (that the consequences of decisions can not be optimal and satisfied due to the limited cognitive abilities of people or some unpredictable factors)
    • Learning mechanisms in games
    • Preference elicitation and winner determination in combinatorial auctions (when the items sold exhibit complementarity and/or substitutability, so the bidder’s valuations for bundles are not additive)

Zero-Sum Games

Zero-sum games are games in which one player’s win results in the other player’s loss. Examples of zero-sum games include chess, checkers, and tic-tac-toe.

Screen grab from:
  • Minimax robustness in communication systems
    • Minimax/maximin formulations
    • Worst-case robust designs (i.e. “novel robust design optimization”)
    • H-infinity designs (

Application to Technical Communication

  • User experience
    • Dark mode
    • Element placement
  • Audience analysis
    • Engineer vs end-user
  • Usability research
    • Accessibility
  • Collaboration within documentation teams
    • Google docs/sheets/slides etc
    • Sharepoint/Teams
  • Information architecture
    • Visio workflows
  • Content strategy
    • Content management
  • Chatbots
    • Cleverbot
    • Akinator


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