The Great Game Theory Guide: #18 — How To Develop a Winning “Long Game” When Meeting The Same Opponent Repeatedly
Skilled strategists often speak of the difficulty of developing a short or long game in dealing with competitive situations, or solving complex problems, or puzzles.
The term “short game” is usually associated with a phase in golf in which accuracy of direction and control of limited distance are factors of first importance. Often in life, when urgency and specificity is required one also needs a solid short game —the accuracy of direction and control of limited resources such as distance, space, and time
The long game, which is often associated with other sports especially team sports is concerned with having a long-term plan, long-term goals, or doing things now that set you up for the future. In the game of life the long game can have great importance in the arenas of sex, dating, creativity, business strategy, education, and financial planning.
Obviously, in life, various scenarios will require a short or long game.
In applied game theory, the more effectively and accurately you can predict what is likely to happen the easier it is to create a Long Game Playbook.
The term that is often used to describe a solid long game strategy is a Self-confirming equilibrium.
What I will tell you here goes beyond entry-level game theory strategies. Still, if you read what I have to say here slowly and with intention, it will be easy to follow and will all make sense.
A key aspect in most game theory is the concept of equilibrium.
In economics, where game theory is often applied, economic equilibrium is a situation in which economic forces such as supply and demand are balanced and in the absence of external influences, the values of economic variables will not change.
This basic concept of stability relates to the choices we may need to make in competitive environments. One of the most important concepts in game theory is called a Nash Equilibrium (NE). Simply put, an NE is a solution of a win/lose game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know all of the most effective, efficient, and productive potentially winning strategies (equilibrium strategies) of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.
As we become more advanced in applying game theory concepts, especially those involving the long game we are likely to come across what is called a “self-confirming equilibrium”. Don’t get overwhelmed here.
What it essentially means is that players can correctly predict the moves their opponents make, but may have misconceptions about what their opponents would do at various points in the game that are never reached when the equilibrium is played.
Now, remember, in a Nash Equilibrium the optimal outcome of a game is one where no player has an incentive to deviate from his or her chosen strategy after considering an opponent’s choice. Overall, an individual can receive no incremental benefit from changing actions, assuming other players remain constant in their strategies. A game may have multiple Nash equilibria or none at all.
Here is a simple example of a NE.
Dick and Jane can be said to be in a Nash equilibrium if Dick is making the best decision he can, taking into account Jane’s decision, and Jane is making the best decision she can, taking into account Dick/s decision. Likewise, a group of players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that he or she can, taking into account the decisions of the others.
Why is all this important? Because the more effectively you can predict what an opponent or adversary is likely to do the more effectively you can strategize to defeat them in a win-lose scenario.
So, a consistent self-confirming equilibrium is another level of refining an existing strategy. Here the refinement of self-confirming equilibrium further requires that each player correctly predicts play at all information sets that can be reached when the player’s opponents, but not the player herself, deviate from their equilibrium strategies. How does one master this skill? Consistent self-confirming equilibrium requires learning models in which players are occasionally matched with “crazy” or irrational opponents so that even if they stick to their equilibrium strategy themselves, they eventually learn the distribution of play at all information sets that can be reached if their opponents deviate.
If you look at American politics you’ll see, that generally speaking Republicans are stronger in the short game while the Democratic Party is stronger in the long game. There are of course exceptions to this perspective. Tell me your thoughts on this.
I’m the author: I am a game theorist and a teacher on peak performance. I am also a results-oriented business and self-improvement coach offering advice for innovators of all levels.
I am always exploring trends, areas of interest and solutions to build new stories upon. Again, if you have any ideas you would like me to write about just email me at LewisCoaches@gmail.com
About My Blogs
Most of my blogs are anchored into the concept of Applied Game Theory. This idea explores how and why people make certain choices, including decisions related to their health, well-being, personal success, and self-awareness.
For an introduction to applied game theory read this vlog (9-minute read and 15-minute video) at…