Economic game theory studied by Haas professor

January 6, 2011

You are running a political campaign with limited resources. How should you spend your money to beat your rival? You are a military commander trying to win a battle. How should you deploy your soldiers to gain an edge? You are a company competing against a rival for market share. How should you allocate your marketing budget most effectively?

Professor John Morgan, who studies competition in online markets, worked with ! Labs to design a social video help answer those questions. “The idea is to study all-pay auctions with budget constraints,” says Morgan, Gary & Sherron Kalbach Chair in Entrepreneurship, “While equilibrium models predict that neither player will have a clear advantage, our guess is that ‘superstars’ will emerge in the data. The goal is to learn about the differences between successful and unsuccessful strategies in these environments.”

The game is called “Shambling Hordes” and features a cast of zombie characters. The Flash-based game recasts players as warlords who direct the “shambling hordes” of zombies to capture other users’ castles. Morgan says the goal was to make the game fun and attracted “hordes” of engaged users, and that testing indicated the zombie theme made the game come alive for users.

As the founding director of the Haas School’s Xlab, Morgan often conducts experiments in the lab setting. A typical experiment involves undergraduate volunteers who are given small amounts of money in a variety of "game" scenarios; their behavior and decisions form data.

This time, Morgan saw clear advantages to developing a hands-on to conduct research. He says sometimes the intrinsic incentive of doing well or trying to win in a game is more motivating than what occurs in the lab. The game teaches players how to think interactively about decisions and how to adapt on the fly to changing strategies of opponents.

Morgan explains, “The ‘right’ strategy depends on the strategy of your opponent and, moreover, has the property that it is best to keep your opponent guessing as to what your next move will be. There is some rudimentary theory for this game but, beyond simple cases, it becomes intractable to analyze using mathematical models. The point of the Yahoo! games is to substitute data—people playing the game in various situations—to go where theory cannot. It is also of interest to learn how quickly individuals adapt and exploit defective strategies of rivals.“

The game launched a couple of weeks ago and Morgan is busy sorting through the initial data. “We are already seeing the ‘superstars’ phenomenon,” says Morgan, “There are players winning 90% of the games they enter. We’re looking forward to a deeper dive into the data to figure out how successful players manage in complex environments.”

Explore further: Using mathematics to identify the good guys 

Related Stories

Modern society made up of all types

November 4, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

What makes gamers keep gaming?

December 9, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Creating Wikipedia has so far taken about 100 million hours of work, while people spend twice that many hours playing World of Warcraft in a single week, notes Jane McGonigal, a game designer and researcher ...

Game-on for a new way of playing

December 14, 2010

A University of Portsmouth graduate has designed the first video game of its kind, where the player enters the sub-consciousness of the main character.

Video games and realism

December 22, 2010

More than 60 percent of parents say video games have no effect on their children. Not true, says Marina Krcmar, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest, who studies the impact of video games on children and teens. ...

Recommended for you

Can genes make us liberal or conservative?

August 4, 2015

Aristotle may have been more on the money than he realised in saying man is a political animal, according to research published Wednesday linking genes with liberal or conservative leanings.

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.