Game Design Theory Level 3 – Customization and Creative Design Techniques

Level 3 Section 2: Game Theory Principles / Strategic Decision Making


Most fans of video games take some pride in their understanding of game mechanics. For the games they play, mechanics become second-nature. The purpose and function of each mechanic is easy for players to test and determine its value. From there, those who look deeper into what is making the mechanics work, start to understand and recognize the elements of game design at play. In that same regard, when we start to look very broadly at what makes up the principles of game design we start to see their origins in game theory.


Game theory touches on much more than just games and video games. It is used by economists, sociologists, mathematicians, and within many other fields of study. They are all studying how outcomes involving choice and action are affected by others with their own choices and actions. Given this broad position of study we can easily see how game theory can be used in endeavors such as business, social studies, science, and politics.


The Study of Strategic Decision Making (Game Theory)

Video games boast a wide variety of mechanics. Most gamers can easily tell if a first-person shooter has good controller reaction and if the button layout is appropriate or not. Game theory really comes into play when two (or more) people come into some kind of mutual competition for a goal, like having the most number of kills or capturing a flag. It is the interaction of people, decisions, and consequences that drives game theory and why it is so relevant to video game design.


We could call this the study of strategic decision making. Different game mechanics and abilities will create a variety of strategic decision making opportunities that must be considered when balancing We want to understand what the most likely outcomes are, and in particular, what are the positive outcomes, when two or more entities are faced with the same or opposing challenges. In effect, we are trying to predict human behavior using what we know about the most likely outcomes that people choose when faced with similar choices in a game scenario against another player or a CPU opponent.