Composing games into complex institutions

Seth Frey, Jules Hedges, Joshua Tan, Philipp Zahn

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Game theory is used by all behavioral sciences, but its development has long centered around the economic interpretation of equilibrium outcomes in relatively simple games and toy systems. But game theory has another potential use: the high-level design of large game compositions that express complex architectures and represent real-world institutions faithfully. Compositional game theory, grounded in the mathematics underlying programming languages, and introduced here as a general computational framework, increases the parsimony of game representations with abstraction and modularity, accelerates search and design, and helps theorists across disciplines express real-world institutional complexity in well-defined ways. Relative to existing approaches in game theory, compositional game theory is especially promising for solving game systems with long-range dependencies, for comparing large numbers of structurally related games, and for nesting games into the larger logical or strategic flows typical of real world policy or institutional systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283361
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023


  • game theory
  • large game composistions
  • computational framework


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