Back to Game Theory

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Popularized by movies such as "A Beautiful Mind," game theory is the mathematical modeling of strategic interaction among rational (and irrational) agents. Beyond what we call `games' in common language, such as chess, poker, soccer, etc., it includes the modeling of conflict among nations, political campaigns, competition among firms, and trading behavior in markets such as the NYSE. How could you begin to model keyword auctions, and peer to peer file-sharing networks, without accounting for the incentives of the people using them? The course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modeling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more. We'll include a variety of examples including classic games and a few applications.
You can find a full syllabus and description of the course here: http://web.stanford.edu/~jacksonm/GTOC-Syllabus.html
There is also an advanced follow-up course to this one, for people already familiar with game theory: https://www.coursera.org/learn/gametheory2/
You can find an introductory video here: http://web.stanford.edu/~jacksonm/Intro_Networks.mp4...

WY

May 16, 2017

Great ! Interesting and abound at the same time. Hope Professors will clarify the strategic utility function more clearly because it's hard for students with poor math basic(forget most><) right now!

SC

Feb 7, 2022

I would have preferred a more mathematically rigorous treatment of the subject. Nevertheless, this was a great course — the instructors expounded all concepts with exceptional clarity and engagement.

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By SoloVictor V

•May 13, 2017

The instruction here is almost never self-sufficient. Except for a few (and very simple) concepts, one has to spend hours on the free web for more accessible explanations of the topics introduced here. My suggestions on improving the course would be three-fold – (i) spend more time within the lectures explaining each concept (ii) increase the number of in-lecture quizzes, and (ii) provide links to more reading materials on each subject.

By Rishabh M

•May 10, 2019

The course syllabus and contents are tough but great. There are 3 teachers who teach us and that makes it a little difficult to follow though. Also, one of the instructors totally goes off topic and too deep into mathematics without giving much clarity.

By Paul B

•May 18, 2017

The subject is very interesting but the teaching is not very good. The teachers make a lot of mistakes and when you are learning a subject it is hard to distinguish between the example showing that you do not understand the subject or the example being wrong. There is also a serious lack of repetition in this course. A new subject is introduced and barely explained and from then on it is assumed that you know that subject by hard. Often a concept if explained by the teacher reading out the definition verbatim and that description often contains concepts that are not explained or actually contain the concept that it is being explained (e.g. A tree is an object that is shaped like a tree). There are very few examples and the few there are are often rushed. For example one side of the example is worked out and the other side of the example is skipped. Repetition is probably the most important part in teaching and completely missed in this course. I would describe this course as an excellent introduction to Game Theory for people who are already experts in Game Theory.

By George T

•Feb 1, 2020

A hodgepodge of slides, lots of stuttering and instructors who are bad at presenting concepts. Be prepared to spend a LOT of time researching and studying everything from scratch. Very frustrating course delivery for a very interesting topic.

By Lee S Y

•Dec 29, 2017

Easily the most challenging introductory course I've taken, but definitely worth it. I must say though that I learnt more from failing the quizzes than the lectures or practice questions.

By 李昂

•Nov 5, 2017

Shoham's teaching makes this class suffer.

By Deborah J

•Nov 28, 2018

Lectures are hard to understand, audibly not intellectually. The speakers are not well organized, they hand wave over complex ideas and the majority of the math assuming you understand linear algebra and higher. The speakers are not engaging. The subject material - usually exciting and clever - becomes a burden to wade through with these instructors. I didn't make it through the course as I couldn't stay awake for it.

By Charles G

•Mar 30, 2018

Incredibly theoretical with boring videos. I solved everything by watching YouTube videos and ignoring the material by the class entirely. I was very disappointed.

Perhaps it would be more useful for the students if the class was denoted with how theoretical and convoluted it is?

The YouTubers and Khan Academy do an infinitely better job of teaching this subject with much more human examples and much less "math-speak"

By 吳冠融 ( W

•Jun 9, 2019

It's a good course for people who want to learn solid knowledge of game theory. Contents are rich and formalized.

Things that can be improved in my opinion:

1. In some weeks, the professors just go deep down into definitions and theorems before providing enough ideas about the problem we are trying to solve here, especially in week 7 (coalitional games).

2. There are many typos in the subtitles.

By Michael C

•Apr 19, 2017

I had no previous background in game theory before taking this course. I am an undergraduate physics major with the corresponding mathematical competence (up to multivariable calculus, differential equations, etc.), and an introductory course in Discrete Math. So I had seen the set theory and summation notation before, but had no experience applying them to game theory.

The instructors were excellent and clearly have a deep academic background in the subject, as well as a significant personal interest. This is important because they didn't come off as if they were just relaying information; they gave the impression of genuinely enjoying the material and even going into brief interludes about the motivation behind some of the definitions and examples from their personal perspectives, in addition to the more "standard" lecture material.

The course is definitely an introduction, and doesn't go into most of the more formal proofs of the theorems used, nor does it use examples or homework problems that require a significant background in the subject. I found I was able to complete most of the problem sets within 4-5 hours, with an average of about 3 hours. But your mileage on this may vary, especially if you're less familiar with the mathematical notation and the style of problem solving used. This is not to say the problems are not difficult, because they are! Many of them are non-intuitive and require you to think around corners, or consider methods of thinking and problem-solving that are not commonly used in math and the natural sciences. This, I think, is a byproduct of game theory's preeminent figure -- John Nash's -- unique approach to mathematics. He was famous for using highly intuitive, non-rigorous ways of coming to conclusions before proving them more formally. Thus, the field is a bit unconventional in its methods and approach, and won't be automatically accessible just because someone has already had exposure to advanced math or science. It requires time and careful thought to develop a deep understanding of. But I found that this effort was well rewarded by the end of the course where I started to see all the earlier theorems and techniques coming together to form a unified system of problem-solving capabilities.

I strongly intend to take the advanced version of this course that is also offered on Coursera. As for this one, I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the mathematics of games, competitive environments, and complex systems in general! Very well done by the instructors.

By S. S B

•Apr 24, 2020

this course is not for beginners. It is very difficult

By ASISH K S

•May 6, 2023

I wouldn't have said anything, if I hadn't paid for it. When you pay for something, you expect it to be of some value right?. The module selection and practice sets were great, it really tests your conceptual knowledge. But the lectures were seriously lacking.

1. I do realize that mathematical expressions and notations are crucial while learning something, but what's the point of flooding it in, if you don't intend to explain it with a legit example? Given the fact that not everyone is going to understand formulae ridden with unseen notations 'intuitively', why bother going through them if you can't clarify it with a decent example. Perhaps the course should be renamed " A strictly theoretical approach to game theory"

2. There are three 'professors', of which one of them tries and I appreciate that. One of them mumbles to himself, like can you please speak up? He begins his sentence audibly and later he mostly just talks to himself. I felt a little embarrassed as if I were eavesdropping into a private conversation that he had with himself. Please don't get me started with the other one. He clearly couldn't care any less, glosses over material, swallows certain terms in the formulae without acknowledging it as if you know it 'intuitively'. Man, it hurts just to watch him. In terms of coalitional game theory, his marginal contribution was a big zero.

3. For weeks 6 and 7, there is no point in watching the lectures if you want to solve the problem sets. The term 'intuitive understanding' is thrown around a lot, that you are supposed to know everything just by glancing through a line-long formula and be able to solve problems. I couldn't solve one problem after watching hour long 'intuitive understanding' videos, after which I headed to YouTube, saw a video or two ( 15 mins max) and was able to swipe a 100% score on the test. Like who are you kidding, seriously? Online learning mode is not here to blame, rather the appalling lack of intention to educate from their own ivory towers of academia.

4. There were numerous times, these professors screw up, that the correct facts had to be pointed out in red boxes, like can't they re-record it? Or were they not to be bothered about the slips of tongue they themselves made? Because all the explanations following these 'mishaps' were rendered invalid.

It may seem that I went on a rant, but all I am trying to say is, people pay for this, so try to offer them some value. I have done more than my fair share of courses here in Coursera, this has been so far the worst in terms of teaching execution. Game Theory is such an intriguing domain and people like Shoham make it absolutely miserable.

By Laith A

•May 19, 2020

Had to spend hours on the internet daily to solve problems sets, the videos are of low quality. lack of exercise and real content.

It would have been more beneficial if this course focused more on concepts rather than math given that its a beginner course.

By Ambuj S

•Jan 27, 2019

Excellent course for beginners. Problem sets are very creative. No more further resources needed. I found this course specially useful if the purpose is to apply Game Theory in other disciplines.

By Dionysis A

•Apr 14, 2019

It was such a helpful course that gave me the opportunity to learn few basic methods and terms about game theory through lots of interesting and to the point examples by three unique professors

By Pradip M

•Dec 13, 2020

Way too difficult for me

Right over my top

By Andrey S

•Mar 23, 2020

The course content is far from being well prepared. A lot of definitions are unclear or not precise, different lecturers sometimes use different notations. Same is true for the recommended literature. In one of the videos, the lecturer repeatedly calls some numbers higher than one a "probability", which is not acceptable. Although the selection of topics could be considered suitable, for the clarity of definitions I needed to access some materials outside of the course, for example, https://www.coursera.org/learn/gametheory or book of А.В. Захаров, "Теория игр в общественных науках".

By Wang Y

•May 16, 2017

Great ! Interesting and abound at the same time. Hope Professors will clarify the strategic utility function more clearly because it's hard for students with poor math basic(forget most><) right now!

By Galina F

•Apr 26, 2021

In case the feedback is welcome...

Confusing explanations: lectors confuse players in the game in the explanations which leads to misunderstanding the concept

Non-informative slides: there are mistakes in the slides as well what makes material more complicated as it is

Lack of examples: cumbersome formulas are either not applied on real tasks at all or explanations of solving the problem is so confusing that I had to watch YouTube videos to find out how to solve it

Inadequate problem sets: lectures don’t show the way how to apply theory on practice, but in graded assignments students need to solve real tasks

Duplicated videos (6.2): the same slides explained by different instructors

Not accurate English subtitles: discrepancy of lector’s words and subtitle text, translation is made by auto translation programs and sometimes doesn’t make sense (at least in Russian)

The course is not as bad as 1 star, but overall rating is way to high to take it. I expected more from Stanford.

By IG F M

•Aug 31, 2021

Horrible course, filled with errors and typos, and the professors are not engaging, I fell at sleep during the course.

By Ben P

•Jan 26, 2017

This course is a very enjoyable tour of introductory game theory, covering several different general types of games and a wide variety of examples taken from real-world situations.

The main results of the theory are stated and demonstrated by examples, rather than proved (if you're looking for a proof of Nash's theorem, you won't find it here but you should definitely look at his original one-page paper from 1949 which is freely available online). Some advanced topics are also briefly mentioned so that interested students have the option to look them up for themselves.

Some may find the use of formal mathematical notation offputting, so you'll want to be comfortable with inequalities, linear equations and the basic notation of set theory.

In the discussion forums for my session, the course mentor was very helpful and supportive of all the students. Some feedback on error corrections and suggestions was posted to the forums (including a summary list posted in week 8) which will hopefully reach one of the instructors.

Overall, I highly recommend the course and am looking forward to part 2!

By Shashankh C

•Feb 8, 2022

I would have preferred a more mathematically rigorous treatment of the subject. Nevertheless, this was a great course — the instructors expounded all concepts with exceptional clarity and engagement.

By Li Z

•Aug 1, 2017

Interesting one, but I think this course is better called "introduction to introduction to game theory".

As game theory is really a tough discipline, I guess the designer of this course might have taken this point a bit too far, fearing that learners online might have trouble digesting the true game theory course.

In terms of definitions and examples, most analysis are limited to very basic two-player games with simple calculation.

You don't get to understand things without applying it to generality and larger data scale.

Also, I doubt some simple programming could be introduced to enrich the assignment.

I suppose it's better suited for those finance and economics majors, not CS majors.

By Anoushka B

•Apr 25, 2020

I enjoyed learning about Game theory. The course syllabus was extremely interesting and pushed me to read and research more about Game theory. It has helped me a lot with my personal growth.

By Elena C

•Feb 24, 2023

Love this course. Really interesting to learn. This subject was very problematic for me when I studied at the University and now I am pretty friendly with it thanks to the Professors of the course.