17.810 | Spring 2021 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Game Theory


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week; 2 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week; 1 hour / session

Overview and Goals

This course provides an introduction to game theoretic analysis in political science. We study the concepts and models used to analyze political behavior in strategic contexts, including normal and extensive form games, games of incomplete information, repeated games, and bargaining.


Willingness to work hard on unfamiliar materials. Understanding of basic multivariate calculus. The course will occasionally rely on some methods of mathematical proof (e.g., proof by contradiction, proof by induction, etc.), but prior exposure to them is not assumed.

Course Requirements
  • Problem sets (7) (50% of the final course grade)
  • Regular attendance and active participation in lectures and recitation sections. (10%)
  • Final problem set (40%)

For details on the problem sets, see the Assignments section.

Notes on Academic Integrity

Please respect and follow the rules written at Academic Integrity: A Handbook for Students

In particular, the following is a (partial) list of the acts we will consider academically dishonest:

  • Obtaining or consulting course materials from previous years
  • Sharing course materials with people outside of the class, such as problem sets and solutions
  • Copying and pasting someone else’s answers to problem sets electronically, even if you collaborated with the person in a legitimate way (as specified above)
Recitation Sessions

We will hold weekly recitation sessions. These sessions will provide a review of the class material and also help with problem sets. The teaching assistant will run the sessions and can give more details. Attendance is strongly encouraged.


Required Book

There will be required readings for each section of the course. Students are expected to complete them before the relevant materials are covered in the lectures. The following textbook is required and will be used throughout the course.

  • Gibbons, Robert S. Game Theory for Applied Economists. Princeton University Press, 1992. ISBN: ‎9780691003955. [Preview with Google Books]

Optional Books

The following books are optional but may prove useful to students looking for additional coverage of some of the course topics. 

Other good textbooks:

  • Osborne, Martin J. An Introduction to Game Theory. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN: ‎9780195128956.
  • Fudenberg, Drew, and Jean Tirole. Game Theory. MIT Press, 1991. ISBN: ‎9780262061414. [Preview with Google Books] *
  • Mas-Colell, Andreu, Michael D. Whinston, and Jerry R. Green. Microeconomic Theory. Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN: ‎9780195073409. *

* These are recommended if you want more rigorous treatments of the materials covered in the course.

For political science applications:

For math background:

  • Gill, Jeff. Essential Mathematics for Political and Social Research. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN: ‎9780521684033. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Simon, Carl P., and Lawrence Blume. Mathematics for Economists. W. W. Norton & Company, 1994. ISBN: ‎9780393957334.

For additional readings, see the Readings section.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2021
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Problem Sets