Saturday, September 24, 2005

Game Theory

Speaking of names, the associated press released a story yesterday More Colleges Offering Game Theory Courses about new courses on creating video games. CNN originally used this title and has since retitled the article More colleges offer gaming theory courses, and some sites now have the more accurate title More Colleges Offering Video Game Courses.

Many fields have historically bad names (like Computer Science) but Game Theory has a name that invokes an area of study quite different than what it actually does. Bob Soare led the charge to change recursion theory to computability theory with some success. Should the game theory community try to do the same? And what should they call it?


  1. for a variety of reasons that are probably only of interest to me (but i include some of them below anyway ;-}), i found this post (and the referenced articles) interesting and funny at the same time:

    - when i took a spot survey in a CS 1 (intro) class, more than half the students (freshmen) said they became attracted to computer science because of computer games.
    i am not sure these students would like to take game theory courses, though. "what, no coding...why is it called game theory?"

    - game/gaming theory seems hot these days (game theory in the CS theory community and gaming in the IT industry)

    - the articles mentioned in the post have progressively corrected the title but in the text they still use the term "game theory" to refer to a set of courses. i quickly browsed through RPI's website and they seem to **not** use the term "game theory".

  2. I wonder why coding theory isn't a more popular class...

  3. yeah, next thing you know, people will be suggesting to change the name of coding theory (as in error-correcting codes? anyone rememeber...?) because that's not what undergrad CS studnets have in mind when they see 'coding'.

  4. Maybe we should suggest using the term "Game Practice" in the context of video games ;)

  5. "Decision Theory" isn't too bad of a name for "Game Theory". But I don't think "Computer Science" is too bad of a name either; though I get differing answers on why it's a science from those who agree it is.

  6. How about associating the originator's names with the field:)

    Data structures: Tarjan theory
    Computational complexity: Cook-Karp theory
    Game theory: Von Neumann theory
    Algorithms: Knuth theory

  7. On another note, I always felt that the course titled Formal Languages and Automata Theory was the one named right. However, the students called it FLAT, killing the whole idea.

    It seemed that the students always called a course with their own name, independent of what the professors wanted it to be called.

  8. Computational Complexity: Hartmanis-Stearns theory

    Though Cook, Karp and Levin certainly played a big part in bringing it into prominence...

  9. >Algorithms: Knuth theory

    Forgive me, but Algorithms are already named after their creator (Al Gore, father of the Internet).

  10. Sometimes also logicians attract other people than expected, especially when they offer a course in Model Theory...

  11. Forgive me, but Algorithms are already named after their creator (Al Gore, father of the Internet).

    I know you're joking, but you're actually half right--they are named for their creator, al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician.

    Naming theories after their "founders" is a dangerous proposition. Do we enumerate every single major contributor? By what standard do we measure who gets credit?

  12. a Persian mathematician...

    who lived in Baghdad.