Pop Culture

Game theory in film, music, and fiction.


Game theory on television

Each show contains a brief synopsis, highlighting its relevance to game theory. Some films contain links to reviews, discussion, as well as links to the film's page at Amazon.com Some movie clips ( audio ) and sound clips ( video ) are also available.
  Show Description Clips
More info at
img Numb3rs Brilliant university professor helps CIA-agent brother solve crimes using seemingly complicated (though generally nonsensical) mathematical theories. Two episodes involved game theoretic themes directly.
>> read about how this relates to game theory
(Drama, 2005, Season 2) Website at CBS, Episode overviews: episode 5, episode 18
Movie scene: "Ah! behavioral game theory. Yeah, we studies this in Quantico ..."
wmv Audio clip Amazon
img Friends Multiple iterations of common knowledge are often dizzying, as are lines like "But see they don't know that we know that they know!"
>> read about how this relates to game theory
(Comedy, 1998, Season 5) Website at IMDB, episode description
Movie scene: "They don't know that we know that they know ..."
wmv clip Amazon
img South Park When arrested for decorating a teacher's house with toilet paper, the boys face a prisoner's dilemma. Cartman confesses receiving a week's detention while the rest receive two weeks.
(Animated Comedy, 2003, Season 7) Website at Comedy Central, episode description
Sound clip: "We better get our stories straight ..."
WAV Audio clip Amazon
img Alias TV series stars Victor Garbor as "our best game theorist" who spouts vague strategisms like "It complies both sides to adopt a mutually reinforcing course of action."
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(Serial Drama, 2001) Website at ABC
jpg images Amazon
img Simpsons Rock-Paper-Scissors is often imployed to settle disputes. In one game, Bart thinks "Good ol' rock. Nuthin' beats that!" which Lisa of course predicts. Highlights the importance of unpredictable mixed strategies
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(Animated Comedy, 1991, 1993) Web Site, description of episode 9F16 and 7F21
jpg images Amazon
img Dilbert Arrested for the murder of a fictitious coworker, Dilbert and colleagues face interrogation by the police. Dilbert announces that his knowledge of the prisoner's dilemma will save him.
(Animated Comedy, 2000) Episode summary
Movie scene: "I happen to understand a little thing called the prisoner's dilemma ..."
wmv clip Amazon
img Survivor Deciding who to keep and who to vote off requires understanding of extensive form games. At what point do you start voting off the strongest? Survivor Thailand featured a challenge which is a simple game of Nim as illustrated in the video.
(Reality Drama, 2001) Website at CBS, an article on the role of game theory
RealVideo clip Amazon
img Joan of Arcadia An episode titled "Game Theory" has two characters engaged in a battle of rock-paper-scissors and discussing the value of mathematical versus behavioral approaches to game theory.
>> read about how this relates to game theory
(Drama, 2005) Show site at CBS
Movie clip 1 (long): "This is the domain of philosophers and poets and not the mathematicians ..."
Movie clip 2 (long): "Perhaps its the psychology she's using ... everything has a strategy, from government to romance"
mov clip mov clip Amazon
img Banzai This short-lived irreverent satire of Japanese game shows featured the "Old Lady Wheelchair Chicken Challenge," a weird take on the game of chicken.
(Satire, 2003)
RealVideo clip
img Blockbusters A game show built around the combinatorial game, Hex, where contestants must answer a question correctly to move.
(Game Show, reruns) Theme music at link on right Website at the Game Show Network, rules description
MP3 Audio clip
img Friend or Foe After partnering to answer questions and increase the potential prize, contestants face off in a prisoner's dilemma to decide how the money is split.
img Weakest Link Contestants help you make money, but you have to beat them in the end to keep it. Deciding who to keep and who to vote off requires understanding of extensive form games.
(Game Show, 2001) Website at BBC, a research article
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