Liar Game, Survivor, and Game Theory

I’m currently reading through a manga (japanese comic) entitled “Liar Game,” available online.  In the game, many people from around the world compete against each other to potentially win huge amounts of cash.  They compete by playing various games, with the idea being to gradually eliminate players until only a few are left, who will claim the a grand prize.

This concept has been done many times in many forms of media, with one of the more recent reincarnations being the popular TV show “Survivor”.  I followed the same trend as my peers in that I watched the entire first season and then slowly lost interest through the second as the show careened into an endless rehash of the same thing season by season.

What I find interesting about Liar Game (as well as Survivor and similar TV shows) is the various mindsets people go into when playing games like this as well as the game theory used to win such games.  A fascinating analysis of the first season of Survivor and the strategy that Richard Hatch used can be found right here.

Which brings me to the point of this post: does game theory have a role in education?  It can be argued that the purpose of school is to prepare children/young adults for the “real world.”  It can also be argued that “the real world” is simply a game, with the game space being “reality,” and the win conditions being different and chosen by every player.  Would it make sense to teach game theory to teach children about conflict?  In particular, I believe it would be fascinating if social studies was taught from a “rational actor” perspective, with attempts to find the reasoning behind major political events (rather than the current “know about these events X that happened in year Y” model).

To argue the other side, there are clear differences between game theory and its application in real life.  Real life requires things such as fairness, compassion, justice, and mercy.  It requires people to recognize that the game is unfair to many people and that everybody deserves a chance to play.  Contrast this to game theory, which is solely involved in figuring out how to win.

I’ll end this post with a brain teaser: There are 22 contestants in a room.  Every round, they will have to answer a yes/no question (the truthfulness of the answer does not matter).  After every round, the majority group is eliminated.  For example, if in the first round 13 people answer “no” and 9 answer “yes”, only the 9 will continue onto the next round.  These rounds continue until there is either 1 or 2 winners.

There exists a method to guarantee a win in this game – can you figure it out?  If not, the solution can be found in chapter 10 of Liar Game, although you will probably need to read the first 9 for it to make sense.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rustam
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 05:53:56

    I’m econ major undergrad. In my game theory class we did go over how trust, reputation and other factors affect the game. As with everything, if you are really into game theory you’ll learn that it can be used for real life as well.


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