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Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  811 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Games are everywhere: Drivers maneuvering in heavy traffic are playing a driving game. Bargain hunters bidding on eBay are playing an auctioning game. The supermarket's price for corn flakes is decided by playing an economic game. This Very Short Introduction offers a succinct tour of the fascinating world of game theory, a ground-breaking field that analyzes how to play g ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 25th 2007)
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Average rating 3.21  · 
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 ·  811 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Oct 01, 2016 rated it liked it
" theory isn't able to solve all the word's problems, because it only works when people play games rationally."
--Ken Bilmore, Game Theory, A Very Short Introduction


Ken Binmore's Very Short Introduction (VSI #173) to Game Theory is my second selection of Oxford's huge, gigantic VSI series (quickly approaching 500 books). It was probably closer to 3.5 stars, but mainly because of the structural problems with surveying Game Theory in less than 200 pages. At less than 200 pages Binmore is abl
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I will admit my head hurts after this book and no its not a bad thing. I will start though by saying that to me mathematics is about numbers and not concepts - my line of work and experience makes me see numbers not symbols or concepts - so I will admit that I have had to work at this book. But why read something that is hard work - well for me the concept is fascinating - game theory has been quoted, mis-interpreted and yes even abused so many times it was about time to see what it was all abou ...more
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
a mediocre introduction to a very interesting subject. the book doesn't really flow - just gives example games without connecting the subjects well. the big problem i had with the book is that the author is way too defensive about negative perceptions of game theory, and thus wastes a lot of space trying to remedy these misconceptions. also, without math it was hard for me to internalize some of the game theoretical results.

some of the interesting points:

* discussion of auction mechanisms, with
Theodore McCombs
May 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Obscure and underwritten for beginners, uninteresting for non-beginners. Some of the first figure illustrations were wrong, abolishing any reader trust (and confusing the heck out of me for a while). Stopped after four chapters. If you're looking for a great and accessible introduction to game theory, keep looking.
Dan Cohen
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was ok

I was disappointed by this introduction. The author writes with considerable style and covers some aspects well, but I think that the core principles of game theory are not explained at all well and the examples and diagrams are explained particularly poorly. Not surprisingly, the book is best when covering the author's speciality - auctions. I also feel that the author devotes too much time to arguing against the straw man of ethical objections to game theory analyses - these could be dealt wit
May 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
After enjoying a couple of Very Short Introduction (VSI) books, I was hoping to enjoy this. However, it was disappointing (I gave up half way) because it kept dropping terms without introduction (e.g., sub-game).

While I agree it is hard to be thorough in short introductory books, I think using terms without introducing them by examples or definition (not for short introductory books) is worst kind of mistake in books. Now, to be fair, I might have enjoyed other VSI books as I was familiar with t
Daniel Wright
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book certainly does more-or-less what it says on the can: you will learn the basics of Game Theory from it. On the other hand there is much criticism that could be made of it. The tone is patronising, defensive, often adversarial. The mathematics (this is not the author's fault) is rather thin on the ground, which sometimes makes it difficult to follow. Not much recommended.
Ken Binmore is the right person for introducing Game Theory. He knows what he is talking about. Although, at times I felt like a short introduction like this could be easier to read. Some pages, I really needed to stop a few mins and read it a few times.
Scott Stratford
Oct 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Pretentious garbage - this is what happens when a mathematician tries to write a book
Only read if you are autistic and think that your entire life experience comes down to a game of heads or tails.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
Blerg... I can't stand this book I hate it I hate it I hate it I love it I hate it.

Even though I struggled to turn each page, I'm glad I got an introduction to game theory... So it lives up to its name. But, geez, it seemed SO MUCH tougher than it had to be. I had a question about every three sentences. It read like a textbook, but occationally, Binmore would drop some strange word or phrase, and he seemed to be breaking the tone...inserting a nonsequiter that didn't ever feel welcome. I was con
Jay Little
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
While short, it's also to the point and lives up to it's title. It is a very short introduction to game theory, but it hits the important notes and gives just enough information to whet the whistle and prepare the reader for more complex, detailed books discussing game theory... such as the rest of Ken Binmore's books.

Think of it not so much as a primer or cliff notes version of Game Theory, but more of a sampler appetizer platter -- you get to try a little bit of everything before deciding if y
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I get're smarter than I am. So, you write a book that doesn't exactly explain a concept, but instead confirms a concept for those who already understand the concept. Well...maybe I'll learn about the concept and then come back and read your short introduction again so I can understand it.
Luna Holmes
May 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
Game theory is fascinating, this author did not do it justice.
Franck Chauvel
In this very short introduction (about 200 pages), Ken Binmore surveys Game Theory, talking about chance, time, conventions, reciprocity, information, auctions, evolutionary biology and finally bargaining.

I think this is a good introduction, especially as I found the book light on maths—a good thing for my Greek symbols anxiety. Still, I found some chapters difficult, especially the last one about bargaining, Though, I have been too lazy to grab a pen and paper and work out the various games on
Feb 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Binmore is an intelligent economist, but a poor writer. Presumably the purpose of this book is to quickly educate the layman of the principles of game theory; his book fails to do so. Binmore seems more interested in showing off and bragging about economics rather than teaching the main ideas of their origins. This served as the textbook for a 300 level economics course in undergrad. After the final exam, our professor asked the class for their opinion of the book; it was nearly unanimous that i ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I am impressed. That was a load of materials to decode and to digest. The book claims that our life matters are just dealt with as if it were a game played rationally. The whole book concludes that our games whether real ones or the metaphorical ones are:
1- interactive.
2- rational.
3- remunerative.

However, the author is being egoist on some positions and his arguments are sometimes undeductive. Some of the examples he uses and the figures that accompany them I have no idea what they are about esp
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
very useful introduction from a real contributor in the field, though it is actually pretty long, and bounces off tangents that need a fair bit of care to understand. It feels like a bigger book masquerading as a little one.

I don't think I came away with any deep knowledge that I can apply, but that is the nature of introductions. There's no way you're going to become a game theorist after one sitting. It is a useful primer to the field and a good choice when combined with other sources. I also
Robert B
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Presents a ton of information but not always in the clearest way. The author tries to avoid mathematics and uses a non-technical language, but the result is that many concepts are introduced in a cursory, less than helpful manner. Rather than an introduction to the topic, it might better serve as a summary of the most important concepts for readers who already know quite a bit about the topic. The list of further readings looks interesting and may flesh out those areas that the author skimps on.
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this book up having been long intrigued by game theory but knowing very little of it beyond a few very broad strokes and bits of jargon. "Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction" provided me with a bit of the history behind the field, and a few bits of jargon and additional concepts, but as to the actual mechanics of game theory, I found my mind mostly glaze and attention wander every time Binmore attempted to explain it. I don't know if this is a failing of mine as a reader, or his as a ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
What an awful reading experience, Binmore could be a thought leader in Game Theory but as an author he can definitely do better.
I took on this book hoping to get just that... an introduction to Game Theory. My problem with this book was that it got into the weeds too fast too soon, the awkward prose not helping at all.

What I did take away was some of the concepts and terms associated to Game Theory such as the Nash Equilibrium, Minimax and Maximin or Folk Theorem to name a few. Now my homework i
Paul Brunger
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some really interesting concepts explores (evolutionary biology, auction design) - as I’ve always found with A Very Short Introduction series it is very dense.

A couple of areas needed multiple readings (eg all the terminology around bees) and the last chapter would need further knowledge to really get a handle on why it works, but author clearly loves the topic which is pretty infectious, and lots of jumping off points to pick up books from the bibliography.
Chaitanya Sethi
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, meh
I read Game Theory in brief for my curriculum this term. That got me interested in knowing more about this. Unfortunately, this book wasn't a good follow up at all. I found myself glazing over so many pages, the explanations were not good, and I just didn't enjoy it. The textbook chapter in Besanko is a far better introduction to this domain. I shall look for another book for this topic. Any recommendations?
Đức Nhật
Date started: 01/08/2020
Date finished: 03/08/2020

Rating about 4 stars.

I don't want this book to go into my reading stats of the year, since I decided to read this for studying and researching. With that in mind, this book is easy to go through and I learnt a lot about game theory in general. The author knows a lot about the topic so I was happy to read from him. Prisoner's Dilemma, Monty Hall problem and many more games. A lot of good stuffs.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best way to read the book is, in my opinion

Look up some of the terms and see some other examples

"Play" the games and try to find the equilbruem when germane

This ruins the short and sweet aspect of it, but I imagine it would help!

As for the book, the author has a fun style that makes a subject that some may find banal into a more enjoyable read.
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mathematics
This is a good short introduction to Game Theory for non-mathematicians. Not as challenging as Myerson or von Neumann and Morgenstern. Game theory is so crucial to understand strategic interaction. Folks in business, military, or diplomats should understand it.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: standard
This feels like another science for no reason. It does have real world applications but still feels like the science of guessing. Would probably have to read again i feel. At the moment its right up there with Semiotics for me.
The author tried a little bit too hard to squeeze too much into too little pages. The result is an introduction that is undoubtedly full of information but is so fast-paced that reader so far untouched by game theory will have considerable difficulty in grasping all the things that are introduced.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I had some difficulty in following the author.

I don't know, it could be because that it is a completely new field to me. Or it could be the poor translation.
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Needed to be more basic than it was. I’m savvy to the rudiments and the reasoning but it isn’t as introductory as it ought to be.
Mitch Flitcroft
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Meh. It's decent but there are probably better intros to game theory out there. The chapter on evolutionary biology was really interesting but the rest was pretty standard.
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Professor of Economics at UCL, after holding corresponding positions at LSE and the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan. Onetime Professor of Mathematics at LSE.

Author of 77 published papers and 11 books. Research in evolutionary game theory, bargaining theory, experimental economics, political philosophy, mathematics and statistics.

Grants from National Science Foundation (3), ESRC (1), STICER

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