Timeability in Extensive-Form Games

Sune K. Jakobsen, Troels Bjerre Sørensen, Vincent Conitzer

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Extensive-form games constitute the standard representation scheme for games with a temporal component. But do all extensive-form games correspond to protocols that we can implement in the real world? We often rule out games with imperfect recall, which prescribe that an agent forget something that she knew before. In this paper, we show that even some games with perfect recall can be problematic to implement. Specifically, we show that if the agents have a sense of time passing (say, access to a clock), then some extensive-form games can no longer be implemented; no matter how we attempt to time the game, some information will leak to the agents that they are not supposed to have. We say such a game is not exactly timeable. We provide easy-to-check necessary and sufficient conditions for a game to be exactly timeable. Most of the technical depth of the paper concerns how to approximately time games, which we show can always be done, though it may require large amounts of time. Specifically, we show that some games require time proportional to the power tower of height proportional to the number of players, which in practice would make them untimeable. We hope to convince the reader that timeability should be a standard assumption, just as perfect recall is today. Besides the conceptual contribution to game theory, we show that timeability has implications for onion routing protocols.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science
EditorsMadhu Sudan
Number of pages9
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-4057-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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