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SYSC 452/552: Game Theory

Broad Course Trajectory

This course intends to explore the topic of Game Theory and its implications in various fields of study. This course is designed in 3 “layers,” each a bit more in-depth than the last. The course will start with Robert Axelrod’s seminal work, The Evolution of Cooperation, as an introduction to the usefulness of game theoretic thinking in disparate disciplines. It will then establish some fundamentals of game theory, including some archetypal game theory structures. Depending on the course we chart together for the remaining half of the course, those concepts will be elaborated upon to varying degrees, and other concepts of particular interest may potentially be introduced.

I am hoping we will address both static game theory and evolutionary game theory, as well as provide an introduction to mechanism design theory, during this term.

Click here for a recent Course Flyer or Syllabus. 


Christan Echt, Systems Science Program


There are no formal prerequisites. Competency in maths through high school algebra, basic algebra, probability, and logic skills are recommended.

Course Objectives:

I have 4 primary objectives in mind for the students in this course:

  1. To engender a community of learning, whereby you and your game-theorist peers choose strategies in accordance with the notion of being on the same “team” (p.s. – I’m on that team as well!)
  2. To absorb and understand together the fundamental concepts upon which game theorists focus
  3. To employ a problem-based learning model where, in order to do well in the course, students must be able to “solve” a real-world game-theoretic problem
  4. To ultimately feel comfortable using game theory and an analytical approach to discuss real-world phenomena

Required Texts:

Axelrod, Robert M. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic, 1984.
(See me if you are having any difficulty at all acquiring a copy of this book.)

Easley, David and Jon Kleinberg. Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning About A Highly Connected World. Cambridge University Press. PDF copy available at Kleinberg’s Cornell website:

Shoham, Yoav, and Kevin Leyton-Brown. Multiagent Systems: Algorithmic, Game-theoretic, and Logical Foundations. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. PDF copy available at via a link at the publisher’s site:

Supplementary Sources:

Gintis, Herbert. Game Theory Evolving: A Problem-centered Introduction to Modeling Strategic Behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2000.

Gintis, Herbert. Bounds of Reason: Game Theory and the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences, Revised Edition. S.l.: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Rapoport, Anatol. Two-Person Game Theory. University of Michigan Press, 1966.
Bruns’ Transform Map on 2x2 Game Forms
Robinson & Goforth’s Periodic Table of 2x2 Games

Grading Components:

  • Axelrod Reflection Paper up to 15 points                                 
  • Problem Set 1                           up to 10 points                                
  • Problem Set 2                           up to 5 points                                 
  • Midterm Exam                          up to 20 points                                 
  • “Game with Me”                        10 points                                 
  • “By Arrangement”          All remaining points (at least 40 points)                                              

Weekly Schedule:

  • WEEK1 – INTRO & Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation
  • WEEK2 – Wrapping up Axelrod & Starting Chapter 6 in Easley and Kleinberg
  • WEEK3 – Chapters 6 & 7 in Easley and Kleinberg
  • WEEK4 – Chapter 7 in Easley and Kleinberg & Maskin – Mechanism Design paper (Nobel speech)
  • WEEK5 – Chapter 3 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown
  • WEEK6 – Chapter 5 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown
  • WEEK7 – Chapter 6 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown                                  
  • WEEK8 – Chapter 8 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown
  • WEEK9 – Chapter 9 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown
  • WEEK10 – Chapter 10 in Shoham and Leyton-Brown