In game theory, coordination games are a class of games with multiple pure strategy Nash equilibria in which players choose the same or corresponding strategies.
If this game is a coordination game, then the following inequalities hold in the payoff matrix for player 1 (rows): A > B, D > C, and for player 2 (columns): a > c, d > b. See Fig. 1. In this game the strategy profiles {Left, Up} and {Right, Down} are pure Nash equilibria, marked in gray. This setup can be extended for more than two strategies (strategies are usually sorted so that the Nash equilibria are in the diagonal from top left to bottom right), as well as for a game with more than two players.
Left  Right  
Up  A, a  C, c 
Down  B, b  D, d 
Fig. 1: 2player coordination game 
A typical case for a coordination game is choosing the sides of the road upon which to drive, a social standard which can save lives if it is widely adhered to. In a simplified example, assume that two drivers meet on a narrow dirt road. Both have to swerve in order to avoid a headon collision. If both execute the same swerving maneuver they will manage to pass each other, but if they choose differing maneuvers they will collide. In the payoff matrix in Fig. 2, successful passing is represented by a payoff of 10, and a collision by a payoff of 0.
In this case there are two pure Nash equilibria: either both swerve to the left, or both swerve to the right. In this example, it doesn't matter which side both players pick, as long as they both pick the same. Both solutions are Pareto efficient. This game is called a pure coordination game. This is not true for all coordination games, as the assurance game in Fig. 3 shows. Both players prefer the same Nash Equilibrium outcome of {Party, Party}. The {Party, Party} outcome Pareto dominates the {Home, Home} outcome, just as both Pareto dominate the other two outcomes, {Party, Home} and {Home, Party}.

 


This is different in another type of coordination game commonly called battle of the sexes (or conflicting interest coordination), as seen in Fig. 4. In this game both players prefer engaging in the same activity over going alone, but their preferences differ over which activity they should engage in. Player 1 prefers that they both party while player 2 prefers that they both stay at home.
Finally, the stag hunt game in Fig. 5 shows a situation in which both players (hunters) can benefit if they cooperate (hunting a stag). However, cooperation might fail, because each hunter has an alternative which is safer because it does not require cooperation to succeed (hunting a hare). This example of the potential conflict between safety and social cooperation is originally due to JeanJacques Rousseau.
In social sciences, a voluntary standard (when characterized also as de facto standard) is a typical solution to a coordination problem.^{ [1] } The choice of a voluntary standard tends to be stable in situations in which all parties can realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions.
In contrast, an obligation standard (enforced by law as " de jure standard") is a solution to the prisoner's problem.^{ [1] }
Coordination games also have mixed strategy Nash equilibria. In the generic coordination game above, a mixed Nash equilibrium is given by probabilities p = (db)/(a+dbc) to play Up and 1p to play Down for player 1, and q = (DC)/(A+DBC) to play Left and 1q to play Right for player 2. Since d > b and db < a+dbc, p is always between zero and one, so existence is assured (similarly for q).
The reaction correspondences for 2×2 coordination games are shown in Fig. 6.
The pure Nash equilibria are the points in the bottom left and top right corners of the strategy space, while the mixed Nash equilibrium lies in the middle, at the intersection of the dashed lines.
Unlike the pure Nash equilibria, the mixed equilibrium is not an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS). The mixed Nash equilibrium is also Pareto dominated by the two pure Nash equilibria (since the players will fail to coordinate with nonzero probability), a quandary that led Robert Aumann to propose the refinement of a correlated equilibrium.
Games like the driving example above have illustrated the need for solution to coordination problems. Often we are confronted with circumstances where we must solve coordination problems without the ability to communicate with our partner. Many authors have suggested that particular equilibria are focal for one reason or another. For instance, some equilibria may give higher payoffs, be naturally more salient, may be more fair, or may be safer. Sometimes these refinements conflict, which makes certain coordination games especially complicated and interesting (e.g. the Stag hunt, in which {Stag,Stag} has higher payoffs, but {Hare,Hare} is safer).
Coordination games have been studied in laboratory experiments. One such experiment by Bortolotti, Devetag, and Andreas Ortmann was a weaklink experiment in which groups of individuals were asked to count and sort coins in an effort to measure the difference between individual and group incentives. Players in this experiment received a payoff based on their individual performance as well as a bonus that was weighted by the number of errors accumulated by their worst performing team member. Players also had the option to purchase more time, the cost of doing so was subtracted from their payoff. While groups initially failed to coordinate, researchers observed about 80% of the groups in the experiment coordinated successfully when the game was repeated.^{ [2] }
When academics talk about coordination failure, most cases are that subjects achieve risk dominance rather than payoff dominance. Even when payoffs are better when players coordinate on one equilibrium, many times people will choose the less risky option where they are guaranteed some payoff and end up at an equilibrium that has suboptimal payoff. Players are more likely to fail to coordinate on a riskier option when the difference between taking the risk or the safe option is smaller. The laboratory results suggest that coordination failure is a common phenomenon in the setting of orderstatistic games and staghunt games.^{ [3] }
Coordination games are closely linked to the economic concept of externalities, and in particular positive network externalities, the benefit reaped from being in the same network as other agents. Conversely, game theorists have modeled behavior under negative externalities where choosing the same action creates a cost rather than a benefit. The generic term for this class of game is anticoordination game. The bestknown example of a 2player anticoordination game is the game of Chicken (also known as HawkDove game). Using the payoff matrix in Figure 1, a game is an anticoordination game if B > A and C > D for rowplayer 1 (with lowercase analogues b > d and c > a for columnplayer 2). {Down, Left} and {Up, Right} are the two pure Nash equilibria. Chicken also requires that A > C, so a change from {Up, Left} to {Up, Right} improves player 2's payoff but reduces player 1's payoff, introducing conflict. This counters the standard coordination game setup, where all unilateral changes in a strategy lead to either mutual gain or mutual loss.
The concept of anticoordination games has been extended to multiplayer situation. A crowding game is defined as a game where each player's payoff is nonincreasing over the number of other players choosing the same strategy (i.e., a game with negative network externalities). For instance, a driver could take U.S. Route 101 or Interstate 280 from San Francisco to San Jose. While 101 is shorter, 280 is considered more scenic, so drivers might have different preferences between the two independent of the traffic flow. But each additional car on either route will slightly increase the drive time on that route, so additional traffic creates negative network externalities, and even sceneryminded drivers might opt to take 101 if 280 becomes too crowded. A congestion game is a crowding game in networks. The minority game is a game where the only objective for all players is to be part of smaller of two groups. A wellknown example of the minority game is the El Farol Bar problem proposed by W. Brian Arthur.
A hybrid form of coordination and anticoordination is the discoordination game, where one player's incentive is to coordinate while the other player tries to avoid this. Discoordination games have no pure Nash equilibria. In Figure 1, choosing payoffs so that A > B, C < D, while a < b, c > d, creates a discoordination game. In each of the four possible states either player 1 or player 2 are better off by switching their strategy, so the only Nash equilibrium is mixed. The canonical example of a discoordination game is the matching pennies game.
An evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) is a strategy which, if adopted by a population in a given environment, is impenetrable, meaning that it cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that are initially rare. It is relevant in game theory, behavioural ecology, and evolutionary psychology. An ESS is an equilibrium refinement of the Nash equilibrium. It is a Nash equilibrium that is "evolutionarily" stable: once it is fixed in a population, natural selection alone is sufficient to prevent alternative (mutant) strategies from invading successfully. The theory is not intended to deal with the possibility of gross external changes to the environment that bring new selective forces to bear.
In game theory and economic theory, a zerosum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant's gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. Thus, cutting a cake, where taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others as much as it increases the amount available for that taker, is a zerosum game if all participants value each unit of cake equally.
In game theory, the Nash equilibrium, named after the mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., is a proposed solution of a noncooperative game involving two or more players in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.
The game of chicken, also known as the hawk–dove game or snowdrift game, is a model of conflict for two players in game theory. The principle of the game is that while the outcome is ideal for one player to yield, but the individuals try to avoid it out of pride for not wanting to look like a 'chicken'. So each player taunts the other to increase the risk of shame in yielding. However, when one player yields, the conflict is avoided, and the game is for the most part over.
In game theory, the best response is the strategy which produces the most favorable outcome for a player, taking other players' strategies as given. The concept of a best response is central to John Nash's bestknown contribution, the Nash equilibrium, the point at which each player in a game has selected the best response to the other players' strategies.
In game theory, the centipede game, first introduced by Robert Rosenthal in 1981, is an extensive form game in which two players take turns choosing either to take a slightly larger share of an increasing pot, or to pass the pot to the other player. The payoffs are arranged so that if one passes the pot to one's opponent and the opponent takes the pot on the next round, one receives slightly less than if one had taken the pot on this round. Although the traditional centipede game had a limit of 100 rounds, any game with this structure but a different number of rounds is called a centipede game.
Matching pennies is the name for a simple game used in game theory. It is played between two players, Even and Odd. Each player has a penny and must secretly turn the penny to heads or tails. The players then reveal their choices simultaneously. If the pennies match, then Even keeps both pennies, so wins one from Odd. If the pennies do not match Odd keeps both pennies, so receives one from Even.
In game theory, a player's strategy is any of the options which he or she chooses in a setting where the outcome depends not only on their own actions but on the actions of others. A player's strategy will determine the action which the player will take at any stage of the game.
In game theory, the stag hunt is a game that describes a conflict between safety and social cooperation. Other names for it or its variants include "assurance game", "coordination game", and "trust dilemma". JeanJacques Rousseau described a situation in which two individuals go out on a hunt. Each can individually choose to hunt a stag or hunt a hare. Each player must choose an action without knowing the choice of the other. If an individual hunts a stag, they must have the cooperation of their partner in order to succeed. An individual can get a hare by himself, but a hare is worth less than a stag. This has been taken to be a useful analogy for social cooperation, such as international agreements on climate change.
In game theory, battle of the sexes (BoS) is a twoplayer coordination game. Some authors refer to the game as Bach or Stravinsky and designate the players simply as Player 1 and Player 2, rather than assigning sex.
In game theory, rationalizability is a solution concept. The general idea is to provide the weakest constraints on players while still requiring that players are rational and this rationality is common knowledge among the players. It is more permissive than Nash equilibrium. Both require that players respond optimally to some belief about their opponents' actions, but Nash equilibrium requires that these beliefs be correct while rationalizability does not. Rationalizability was first defined, independently, by Bernheim (1984) and Pearce (1984).
In game theory, trembling hand perfect equilibrium is a refinement of Nash equilibrium due to Reinhard Selten. A trembling hand perfect equilibrium is an equilibrium that takes the possibility of offtheequilibrium play into account by assuming that the players, through a "slip of the hand" or tremble, may choose unintended strategies, albeit with negligible probability.
In game theory, folk theorems are a class of theorems about possible Nash equilibrium payoff profiles in repeated games. The original Folk Theorem concerned the payoffs of all the Nash equilibria of an infinitely repeated game. This result was called the Folk Theorem because it was widely known among game theorists in the 1950s, even though no one had published it. Friedman's (1971) Theorem concerns the payoffs of certain subgameperfect Nash equilibria (SPE) of an infinitely repeated game, and so strengthens the original Folk Theorem by using a stronger equilibrium concept subgameperfect Nash equilibria rather than Nash equilibrium.
In game theory, a repeated game is an extensive form game that consists of a number of repetitions of some base game. The stage game is usually one of the wellstudied 2person games. Repeated games capture the idea that a player will have to take into account the impact of his or her current action on the future actions of other players; this impact is sometimes called his or her reputation. Single stage game or single shot game are names for nonrepeated games.
In game theory, a correlated equilibrium is a solution concept that is more general than the well known Nash equilibrium. It was first discussed by mathematician Robert Aumann in 1974. The idea is that each player chooses their action according to their observation of the value of the same public signal. A strategy assigns an action to every possible observation a player can make. If no player would want to deviate from the recommended strategy, the distribution is called a correlated equilibrium.
The revelation principle is a fundamental principle in mechanism design. It states that if a social choice function can be implemented by an arbitrary mechanism, then the same function can be implemented by an incentivecompatibledirectmechanism with the same equilibrium outcome (payoffs).
In game theory, a subgame perfect equilibrium is a refinement of a Nash equilibrium used in dynamic games. A strategy profile is a subgame perfect equilibrium if it represents a Nash equilibrium of every subgame of the original game. Informally, this means that if the players played any smaller game that consisted of only one part of the larger game, their behavior would represent a Nash equilibrium of that smaller game. Every finite extensive game with perfect recall has a subgame perfect equilibrium.
Risk dominance and payoff dominance are two related refinements of the Nash equilibrium (NE) solution concept in game theory, defined by John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten. A Nash equilibrium is considered payoff dominant if it is Pareto superior to all other Nash equilibria in the game. When faced with a choice among equilibria, all players would agree on the payoff dominant equilibrium since it offers to each player at least as much payoff as the other Nash equilibria. Conversely, a Nash equilibrium is considered risk dominant if it has the largest basin of attraction. This implies that the more uncertainty players have about the actions of the other player(s), the more likely they will choose the strategy corresponding to it.
In game theory, an epsilonequilibrium, or nearNash equilibrium, is a strategy profile that approximately satisfies the condition of Nash equilibrium. In a Nash equilibrium, no player has an incentive to change his behavior. In an approximate Nash equilibrium, this requirement is weakened to allow the possibility that a player may have a small incentive to do something different. This may still be considered an adequate solution concept, assuming for example status quo bias. This solution concept may be preferred to Nash equilibrium due to being easier to compute, or alternatively due to the possibility that in games of more than 2 players, the probabilities involved in an exact Nash equilibrium need not be rational numbers.
journal=
(help)Other suggested literature: