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Players Making Decisions: Game Design Essentials and the Art of Understanding Your Players by Zack Hiwiller

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Part 5: Game Theory and Rational Decision-Making

How little we think about how it is we think.

—NOREEN HERTZ

A field of study known as game theory is often confused with game design or game studies. People who have never designed or developed games before often think that you must use game theory because it must be a “theory of how to make games.” It is not. Game theory is the specific study of strategic decision-making, often in situations of conflict. Organizationally, it’s seen as a field of mathematics.

The “game” in game theory refers to the situations between multiple actors. For instance, game theory treats the real prospect of nuclear war between two countries as a “game.” This definition is different from the definition that designers ...

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