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An Introduction to Game Theory Hardcover – August 7, 2003

2.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This is a textbook to be enjoyed both by professors and students, full of clever and often original applications and examples. Serious students who use this text are likely to emerge with a new way of thinking about much of what they see in the real world."--Ted Bergstrom, Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara

"The book is just superb. I anticipate (based both on my own reading of the book, and comments from colleagues at other institutions) that this will be the standard text for introductory courses in game theory in political science departments for the foreseeable future."--Scott Gehlbach, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin

"What distinguishes this book from other texts is its remarkable combination of rigor and accessibility. The central concepts of game theory are presented with the mathematical precision suitable for a graduate course, but with an abundance of wide-ranging examples that will give undergraduate students a concrete understanding of what the concepts mean and how they may be used."--Charles A. Wilson, Professor of Economics, New York University

"A great book, by far the best out there in the market in thoroughness and structure."--Dorothea Herreiner, Assistant Professor of Economics, Bowdoin College

"The ideal textbook for applied game theory . . . . It teaches basic game theory from the ground up, using just enough clearly defined technical terminology and ranging from traditional basics to the most modern tools."--Randy Calvert, Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis

"The approach is intuitive, yet rigorous. Key concepts are explained through a series of examples to guide students through analysis. The examples are then followed by interesting and challenging questions. The main strength is the impressive set of exercises . . . they are extremely well organized and incredibly broad, ranging from easy questions to those for adventurous students."--In-Koo Cho, William Kinkead Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Illinois

"The gentle pace of the material along with the plethora of examples drawn from economics (mainly) and political science seems to work very well with students."-Branislav L. Slantchev,Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

"The book is excellent. It is chock full of exercises that are both interesting and applicable to real issues, allowing me great flexibility in focusing on specific examples to illustrate the theory."--Christopher Proulx, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This book provides a simple yet precise introduction into game theory, suitable for the undergraduate level. Author Martin J. Osborne makes use of a wide variety of examples from social and behavioral sciences to convey game-theoretic reasoning. Readers can expect to gain a thorough understanding without any previous knowledge of economics, political science, or any other social or behavioral science. No mathematics is assumed beyond that of basic high school."--Journal of Macroeconomics

About the Author

Martin J. Osborne is at University of Toronto.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195128958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195128956
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have quite a few game theory books, including the Fudenberg and Tirole, the Gibbons, the Mayerson and the other Osborne book. This one is absolutely the best introductory book you will find. The writing is extremely clear, with no unnecessary math, but with very rigorous treatment of concepts and theorems. The author makes remarkable effort in explaining the stuff, and succeeds beyond my expection in offering intuitions and ideas behind the concepts and theorems. It is a perfect intro-level book, if what you want is the combination of accessibility, rigor, and comprehensiveness.
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Format: Hardcover
I used Osborne's book for an introductory course on game theory I took as an undergraduate. While Osborne provides a great general overview of game theory, I find this book lacking in a number of respects.

First, theorems are presented in this book inuitively, as opposed to rigorously. Therefore, in place of using proofs to justify a theorem or a given result, many of the theorems are illustrated through words. This method, however, proves to be confusing at many points in the book.

In addition to this, the book is heavily invested in the use of examples to illustrate the numerous applications of particular theorems or results. While I generally applaud the extensive use of examples, this also proves to be very confusing at times since the logical steps Osborne seems to make are not always explicitly stated. This caused me some trouble in trying to solve several problems in the textbook. The one saving grace was that Osborne has posted several (though not all) solutions on his website.

This book does require knowledge of algebra and a little calculus. Some microeconomic theory wouldn't hurt, either--especially for the sections on Stackelburg and Cournot duopolies. Becuase most economics programs in the US stress mathematics, I would recommend an alternative textbook that is more rigorous. Principally, I used Roger Myerson's "Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict" to supplement the shortcomings of this book. Myerson's book is thoroughly rigorous and is, I believe, used as a graduate textbook for game theory in many departments. If, however, you are interested in a general overview of the field or do not feel comfortable with technical mathematics, I would definately recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
As a grad student preparing for his comprehensive exams, I searched long for an exemplary introduction to game theory. The descriptions of this book which I found on the web led me to believe Osborne's book was the one I needed. The book starts off promising enough. The preface exclaims that "the only way to appreciate the theory....is to put it into action" and that over 280 exercises will allow you to do this.

Then comes the part they don't tell you - those 280+ exercises have no solutions. They are not included in the text. Even after contacting the author he refused access to the solutions.

So what may have just been the best intro to game theory ever done is useless to a self-motivated learner. The only purpose I can see that it serves is as a required text book for a course.

Bottom line - unless you HAVE to have this for a class, don't waste your money. It will be very wisely spent elsewhere.
3 Comments 36 of 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I had the misfortune of having this book as the required text for a course. It was expensive, unreadable and useless. Osborne avoids basic mathematics to the extent that he uses symmetry to find the turning point of quadratics. This is extremely frustrating because while he shuns basic mathematical techniques and ideas that can make matters simpler, he presents basic game theoretic ideas in a dense, abstruse mass of mathematical symbols. I have a lot more experience in pure mathematics than in economics, but even I found all the symbols and arcane functions difficult to digest, especially when the idea being presented could be expressed FAR more clearly and concisely using a few words.

There are no proofs, very few theorems and very few realistic applications. The book is neither suited to those mathematically inclined individuals who are interested in the theoretical game theory nor to those interested in real life applications.

If you love mathematics, stay away from this book, the lack of proofs and rigour will frustrate you. If you hate mathematics, stay away from this book, the abstruse symbols and obfuscated explanations will frustrate you.

By far the worst textbook I've bought.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a into great book that works well in companion with the more advanced "A Course in Game Theory," by Osborne and Rubinstein. That said it is not layperson's guide to Game Theory, if such a thing could possibly exist.

Complaints of a pervious reviewer seem unfounded. Yes, game theory requires math. Game thoery, like most other theory, is also not packaged to be directly ported to the "real world." It requires the use of stylized models to make any ground. Figuring out how to apply a subject like game thoery to the real world is not something that can really be conveyed in a book. Rather, one should try to internlize the concepts contained in the thoery by working simple examples.
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