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Best Online Classes For Game Theory

Game theory is a mathematical theory about deciding what will bring the maximum benefit to oneself based on what others will do. Using the basic concepts from traditional games, such as chess and poker, the subject is a mixture of many different subjects, such as mathematics, economics and even psychology. Beyond games, the subject is used not only in an individual’s daily decisions, but also in international diplomacy, political campaigns, and trade. 

Game theory is required in various jobs, ranging from stock traders, consultants, economists to mathematicians or statisticians. In 2018, the median annual wages for a financial analyst, an economist, and a mathematician or statistician were $85,660, $104,340, and $88,190, respectively. And the employment rate for the three kinds of jobs was projected to grow 6, 8 and 30 percent, respectively. 

Whether you’re a student preparing for an exam, simply looking into study more about the subject, or are seriously considering a profession requiring game theory, there are many excellent online courses that you can take from the comfort of your own bedroom. 

We have assembled a list of free and affordable online courses on game theory that can get you started quickly. 

1. Game Theory

Offered by Stanford University and the University of British Columbia, this course provides the basic concepts of game theory, such as the Nash equilibrium, zero-sum game, extensive-form games, repeated games, Bayesian games, and Coalitional games. At the end of the course, you will be given a final exam to test everything you’ve learned about game theory. For this course, you don’t need any previous experience with the subject. If you like this course and want to delve deeper into game theory, the same team of professors is offering a more advanced course “Game Theory II: Advanced Applications.”  

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 21 hours (5 hours per week suggested)
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

Note: Prices for all courses listed in this article are true on the date of publishing, but are subject to change.

2. Game Theory II: Advanced Applications

Offered by Stanford University and the University of British Columbia, this course is a follow-up to the beginner “Game Theory” course. You will learn about advanced topics, such as social choice theory or collective decision making, mechanism design and auction theory. Though the beginner’s course offered by the same schools is not a prerequisite for this course, the course does require previous experience with the subject. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 15 hours 
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

3. Welcome to Game Theory 

This course, offered by the University of Tokyo, teaches the basic concepts in game theory, such as equilibrium, rationality and cooperation. Focused more on the conceptual aspects of the subject, this course requires very little mathematical skills. Offered to all levels of students, this course does NOT require any previous knowledge on the subject. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 11 hours (3-4 hours per week suggested)
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

4. Mathematical Game Theory 

Offered by the Saint Petersburg State University, this game theory course teaches how to make choices based on mathematical calculations and bring out the maximum benefits. You will go through different concepts, such as zero-sum games, noncooperative games, cooperative games, and differential games. Welcoming all beginners, this course will define and explain every small concept for the students. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 29 hours (8 hours per week suggested)
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

5. Games Without Chance: Combinatorial Game Theory 

Offered by Georgia Tech, this course covers the mathematical theory and analysis of simple games without chance moves. First, you will be introduced to a combinatorial game and play simple games. Then, you will study how to add multiple games and analyze them. Then, you will study how to determine the outcome of simple sums of games using inequalities. Next, you will play games involving numbers and how to win them. Then, you will learn about dominating moves and reversible moves. Lastly, you will learn how to play and analyze impartial games. This course is highly focused on learning different types of game models. 

  • College credits: NO — Course Certificate only
  • Price: FREE to audit, but there’s a fee to earn and buy a Course Certificate
  • Financial aid or scholarships: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 7 hours
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English
  • Vendor: Coursera

6. The Game Theory – John Nash 

Presenting John Nash, a world renowned mathematician whose fundamental contributions to game theory had won him both the Nobel Prize and Abel Prize, this course provides video contents, in which the master himself explains the history and some of the key concepts of the subject. This course may lack some practical application or detailed examples, but it is truly mind-blowing to hear from the very contributor of the subject. 

  • College credits: NO — Certificate of Completion only 
  • Price: $24.99
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 1 hour 
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English 
  • Vendor: Udemy 

7. Simple Strategies from Game Theory, for Leaders & Managers! 

Focused on leaders and managers, this course teaches the basic concepts of game theory, such as strategies for competition and conflict management. Without extremely complicated mathematical modeling or probabilities, this course focuses on using game theory to analyze and make the most effective decisions in situations of conflict within organizations. While this course is best fitting for aspiring entrepreneurs or managers, it is also beneficial to all those who want to succeed in their workplaces. 

  • College credits: NO — Certificate of Completion only 
  • Price: $18.99 on sale ($64.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes 
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English 
  • Vendor: Udemy 

8. Game Theory: How Cooperation and Competition Work 

This course uses game theory to understand why and how people and societies cooperate and also enter into conflicts. First, you will be given an overview of game theory, ranging from the brief history and different elements involved in a game or strategy. Then, you will study non-cooperative games and competitive strategic interaction based around Nash Equilibrium. Next, you will explore social cooperation and a few popular models, such as the social dilemma and tragedy of the commons. Lastly, you will study the evolutionary game theory and learn about how cooperation rise and fall over time. You do not need any previous experience with economics, statistics or game theory. 

  • College credits: NO — Certificate of Completion only 
  • Price: $18.99 on sale ($34.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English 
  • Vendor: Udemy 

9. Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business and Beyond 

Taught by a professor from James Madison University, this course teaches the basic concepts of game theory, starting with the subject’s history and definition and going over the most studied models, such as chicken, stag hunt and prisoner’s dilemma, and ending with examples of how game theory is used in multiple areas of the real world, such as businesses and war. Note that this course has a video and audio version. If you need visuals to learn better, we recommend the video version. Also, there is a 124-page printed course guidebook included in the course.  

  • College credits: NO
  • Price: $241.95 for digital content (online streaming and digital guidebook) or $254.95 for digital content plus DVD discs and printed guide books 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 12 hours 
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English 
  • Vendor: The Great Courses

10. Economics: Competition, Elasticity, a little Game Theory 

While ultimately covering the broader subject of economics, this course also provides the key concepts of game theory and how game theory fits in the bigger realm of economics. You will see how game theory is applied in real life events, such as the nuclear arms race and commercialization of sport. But if you’re strictly looking for a course focused on game theory, check out the other courses listed in this article first. 

  • College credits: NO — Certificate of Completion only 
  • Price: $18.99 on sale ($99.99 regular price)
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 6 hours 
  • Languages: English with subtitles in English 
  • Vendor: Udemy

11. Game Theory — Yale Open Course  

Offered by Yale University and taught by Professor Ben Polak, professor of economics and management, this open course teaches the basic concepts of game theory, such as Nash equilibrium, evolutionary stability, adverse selection and signaling. You will see how the theoretical concepts are played out in both games and real life examples from businesses, politics and elsewhere. As an open course, you will go through the same coursework as undergraduates taking this course at Yale, including two exams, a midterm and a final, which are provided in pdf forms and are self-graded for your benefits. All the video contents were recorded in Fall 2007. Although this is an introductory course on game theory, note that you must have previous experience with microeconomics and calculus to fully understand the contents of this course. Also, because this is an open course, note that you will need to self-provide the required textbooks. 

  • College credits: NO 
  • Price: FREE 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO 
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 30 hours 
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: Open Yale Courses

12. Game Theory — MIT OpenCourseware 

Offered by the MIT and taught by Professor Mihai Manea, this open course covers non-cooperative and cooperative solution concepts of game theory, such as Nash, sequential and stable equilibria and Shapley value. You will learn about topics like bargaining and repeated games. Note that this course requires you to take Microeconomic Theory II, which is also an open course. Also, if you’re a visual learner, this course may not be the best fit for you because this course does not provide any audio or video materials, but just lecture slides and reading materials used in the original class, which was taught in the Spring 2016 semester. Also, because this is an open course, note that you will need to self-provide the required textbook. 

  • College credits: NO 
  • Price: FREE 
  • Financial aid or scholarships: NO 
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Self-paced learning: YES
  • Flexible deadlines: YES
  • Time needed for completion: Approximately 1-1½ hours per lecture
  • Languages: English
  • Vendor: MIT OpenCourseware