Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

Summary: Microsoft Research has launched its first Facebook game and is working on developing a more complete Facebook game-theory platform.

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Microsoft Research has launched its first Facebook game, known as Project Waterloo, and is using it as a launchpad for a platform for behavioral game theory on social networking sites.

The Research Games team is focused on "testing the behavior of real people in game theoretic interactions in social networks" and is exploring topics like how people negotiate with one another, how behavior reciprocation works and how individual opinions are aggregated.

"The ways in which people interact, socialize and communicate have dramatically changed in recent years due to internet-based technologies," said a Microsoft Research page about the Research Games team. A couple of the researchers on the team have strong links to advertising, indicating at least some of the potential financial motivation behind Microsoft's explorations in this area.

Now that the researchers have launched the Waterloo Facebook game, they are focusing on establishing a a “Facebook Game Theory Lab," according to the Research site.

"This is (Facebook Game Theory Lab) platform that would allow us to carry out experiments in which people interact with their friends in a set of games, designed to examine the strategic interactions that occur in a principled way. Example games are competition and resource allocation games and negotiation games. This way we can examine where peoples’ behavior differs from predictions from classical game theory, and devise tools to better predict the behavior," the site explained.

The team is hoping to capitalize on Facebook's viral-marketing mechanisms so as to be able to observe a large study base and to analyze better the "playing field" of the social graph. "The artificial 'lab setting' of traditional experiments in behavioural game theory is replaced by the natural social habitat of the subjects, their circle of friends," the research page notes. (With Facebook's now greatly expanded "Open Graph," things might get even more interesting for Microsoft researchers around the social graph.)

Project Waterloo is a two-player game with troops and battlefields. Project Waterloo is a Colonel Blotto style game; the client side of the game is almost  entirely CSS and JavaScript, and the server is running an ASP.NET MVC 3 application (hosted on Azure) with a SQL Azure database back end

Project Waterloo is just one of a number of social/casual games with which Microsoft has been dabbling increasingly across the company. Microsoft also introduced a social-gaming toolkit for Windows Azure in July.

Topics: Microsoft, Mobility, Social Enterprise

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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5 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

    I was just telling all my Facebook friends that the one thing I wished Microsoft Research would focus on is Facebook game theory. Hallelujah! Maybe, my next wish would be for them to focus on UI theory for Windows 8 to help study how real people would like to use Windows and Metro.
    windowseat
  • RE: Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

    This is nice! Finally MS Research's work is getting visible, I know they have done some real nice work with Google and Yahoo... never get credit. Go guys!

    PS: Trolls, I am not an MS fan, so pls go post elsewhere
    prasanna_vps
  • RE: Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

    What about Neosaurs? Or is this the first by the research team whereas Neosaurs was released by another team in Microsoft?
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  • RE: Microsoft readies a Facebook 'Game Theory Lab'

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