Contrary to what the name may imply here, Game Theory has very little to do with video games. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines Game Theory as, “the analysis of a situation involving conflicting interests (as in business or military strategy) in terms of gains and losses among opposing players.” In layman’s terms, it’s making the best possible decision for the most favorable outcome based on the circumstances of the situation. Here are four hypothetical examples of Game Theory, as applied to RuneScape:
4. Max Cash Auction (Dollar Auction)
Jagex decides to start an in-game promotion where they auction off a max cash stack (2.147b) in a randomly selected world to the player who successfully bids the most coins on it. However, there’s a catch: the player who bids the second most must also pay his highest bid, but will receive nothing in return. Everyone begins to put in their bids for whatever they can afford, but as the bids grow larger, the number of bidders that can continue dwindles to a select few ultra-rich players.
As the bids approach 2 billion, only two players remain in the race. One player eventually bids max cash and will receive no return on his investment. Not wanting to lose 2 billion gp, the other player bids over max cash. Instead of competing to win money, they are now competing to lose the least. When they were the last two left in the race for the cash, they should have compromised to split the winnings, but both refused to lose.
3. RWTers’ Dilemma (Prisoner’s Dilemma)
Customer support identifies two possible real-world traders (both sellers). Each receives an identical message from customer support asking both to rat out the other in exchange for not being banned. What they don’t know is: if one rats out the other and the other stays silent, the rat goes free and the silent one is permanently banned; if both rat each other out, both are banned for six months with their banks wiped clean and; if both stay silent, both receive a temporary month-long mute for breaking a different rule altogether.
Seeing as their main customers are children with access to mommy’s credit card, both are likely only to be interested in saving themselves. This means that both would suffer the same six month ban and bank wipe. However, if they were friends, they could collaborate to stay silent and only receive mutes… unless one friend betrays the other for his own freedom. Obviously it would be in their best interest for both to stay silent, but that would require an element of trust in someone they didn’t know that well, if at all.
2. Bug-Reporting Dilemma (Volunteer’s Dilemma)
Jagex has just announced in the BTS that they will be releasing new game-changing prayers at levels 97 and 99 during the first week of the month. As a result, the gilded altars at player owned houses are packed with players trying to reach level 99 prayer in preparation for the update. Some rule breakers decide to use this opportunity to spread a glitch that allows a player to keep one door in house permanently closed. As a result, the training players have to take the long way around through another door just to reach the altar.
The players are all so focused on training that none of them stop to report the bug to Jagex. If just one player reported the bug to Jagex, they could easily fix it and allow all other players to train faster at the cost of the time required to fully report the bug. One player must sacrifice a small amount of time for the greater good at the cost of falling behind in the race to 99. It would allow every player (including the person who fills out the bug report) to train faster, but the player who reports it may fall behind everyone else.
1. Release-Day Glitch Dilemma (Traveler’s Dilemma)
Two players with identical stats and identical inventories set off to fight the Queen Black Dragon the day she was released. Unfortunately, both died and their gravestones appeared on the same spot as hundreds of other graves. As a result, both lost all their items. But there was hope! Jagex decided to reimburse players for their lost items for as much as 100M.
A Jagex mod informs them that both must message him the value of their inventory to the nearest million gp. If both players tell the Jagex mod the same value, he will treat that as the true value and reimburse them that amount. However, if one player states a lower value than the other one, both players will receive that amount. The player who states the lower value will receive a bonus 10M and the player who wrote the higher value has 10M deducted from the amount.
Both players have to strategize to earn up to 109M. It would be in the best interest of both players to say 100M, but greed might inspire one to say 99M. Ah, but the other player was expecting that and said 98M. This cycle could continue until neither player optimizes the value of the reimbursement. If either player claims that the value was less than 90M, they are both receiving less than they could have if they had both simply said 100M.
Are some of these situations absolutely ridiculous because they would never actually happen? Perhaps, but the lesson remains. It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of every situation and decision in the real world, so why not play RuneScape that way as well? Maybe you’re not a big fan of maximum efficiency style of playing, but that’s no reason not to play intelligently.
To learn more about game theory, check out its Wikipedia article.