What does Game Theory have to do with Reality TV?

Hi there! If you’ve somehow managed to stumble across my blog, I assume you’re either interested in Game Theory or reality TV, but most probably not in both?

You’re probably wondering how on earth this blog idea even came to being with these two very contrasting topics. Let me explain…

Blame it on Love Island

It all started off with me binge watching Love Island on one lazy weekend.

Eye roll
I can hear your eye roll from here.

Don’t judge me, we all have our guilty pleasures, reality TV just happens to be one of mine. I’d heard about it all over social media and there were some hilarious memes but I never knew what the hype was about so I decided it was time to join the masses.

If you’ve never heard of Love Island, it’s your typical trashy British reality TV show. The premise is that a bunch of tanned singles are put together in a villa in Mallorca to “find love” and the producers introduce a series of constructs to stir up drama. Contestants need to “couple” up and anyone not in a couple gets eliminated. Another monkey wrench is that some new people get introduced partway which leads to more people getting voted out and heightened tensions.

Actually, in terms of the rules in this competition, it’s a bit of a mess. I honestly couldn’t pinpoint the exact rules since they seem to introduce something new every week but you just kind of go along with it for the sweet sweet drama.

How did binge watching this mind-numbing show inspire me to learn about Game Theory?

One of the contestants (Olivia) faced a dilemma in an episode where she could either stay safe in her pre-existing couple or take the risk of “dumping” him for a new guy that she fancied. Is it better for her to choose safety or to follow her heart?


I wondered about her decision making process which led me to do a little research into Game Theory which in turn allowed me to have a better insight to her decision making behaviour.

What is Game Theory?

I’m just going to briefly explain Game Theory in this post as it definitely deserves a whole post for itself. For now, I will just give a basic definition. Game Theory uses mathematical models to map and study the interaction of groups in rational decision-making and is also referred to as the ‘theory of social situations’.

Game Theory can be used to analyse different social situations and in doing so, can help us better understand negotiations and cooperations as well as strategies to reach ‘best situations’. The scope of Game Theory covers everything from modelling economics and business to biological behaviours. In terms of social situations, what better way to examine social behaviour than in a reality TV show?

Learning more about Game Theory

My degree was in Psychology so I’ve had a little introduction to Game Theory when we studied the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ (don’t worry, I’ll get to this soon). However, I am by no means an expert at Game Theory at all. I decided to enroll on this an amazing Coursera course about Game Theory and I started this blog to consolidate my knowledge (as well as justifying my fix of trashy TV). I hope we can learn about Game Theory together whilst bonding over our love-hate relationship with trashy TV! 😊

Stick around for my reality show analyses, more will be coming very shortly! If you’d like to find out more about what I thought about the Coursera course on Game Theory, check out my post on my other blog, MateMake.


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