Game Theory in a Scene

Fossil9 —  March 11, 2013 — 3 Comments

Fair warning – In this post I connect Dom and sub interactions to the economic concept of game theory.  Both subjects are of material interest to me but if you abhor economics you may not want to spend too much time reading through this post.  For those of you still interested, let’s get into some basic economics…

Game theory involves strategies among multiple decision makers with different goals to maximize their gains and minimize their losses in a given situation.  The Prisoner’s Dilemma is probably the best known example of game theory so I will cover that below and then incorporate aspects of a Dom and sub relationship.

Prisoner’s Dilemma
In the Prisoner’s Dilemma two people are put into jail in separate cells and they cannot communicate with each other.  The police do not have enough information to convict both prisoners on the primary charge so they plan on jailing them both on a lessor charge for a 1 year term.  However, each prisoner is also offered another opportunity by police.  If he testifies against the other he will go free and his partner will go to jail for 3 years.  The catch is that if both prisoners testify against each other then both will be sentenced to 2 years in jail.  In this situation it is best for each prisoner to betray his partner because betrayal results in the best outcome regardless of what the other partner does.  To break this down:

  • If your partner testifies against you then you are best off testifying against him which would result in you both going to jail for 2 years.  If you did not testify then your partner goes free and you end up in jail for 3 years.
  • If your partner does not testify against you then you are best off by testifying against him.  By doing so you will walk away free and he goes to jail for 3 years.

Communication and trust between the two prisoners would actually result in the best possible mutual outcome – neither testify and both are in jail for 1 year on the lessor charge.

How does this relate to the interactions between a Dom and sub?
In game theory you need players, strategy and payoffs.  The Dom and the sub are the ‘players’ in this situation so that is simple.  Now, the ‘payoffs’ can be somewhat tricky – only you can decide what your payoffs are.  I know if you lack experience this following point may be difficult but you should figure out what you want before you try to get it.  Generally the payoffs a Dom or sub gets are the experience and feelings that arise before, during, and after a scene.  Those that have had an economics class or two would know the benefits better as one’s ‘utility’.

In my post “Who is in Control?” I wrote about how a sub sets boundaries based upon his interests and those boundaries influence how the Dom and sub interact.  Once those boundaries are discussed and agreed upon it is time to figure out how to maximize mutual payoffs.  In this post I define mutual payoff as the combined benefits a Dom and a sub get from playing together.  I am not a proponent of a Dom or a sub trying to maximize their own benefit from a scene when it results in a net decrease in the combined benefit the Dom and sub receive from the scene.  A more concise way of stating my last point would be to say ‘don’t be a dick’ to your play partner…unless that is what he is looking for.

A few considerations for maximizing mutual payoffs:

  • Do you want the single best mutual experience possible or the best mutual experience over the long-run?  If you have limited future opportunity to play together due to distance or other factors you and your play partner may want to try to cram a number of interests together into a scene.  If the two of you want to set yourselves up for future sessions you would want to take a different approach.  In those sessions you can be more focused on what occurs as you will have more time to explore your mutual interests at a deeper level, mutually reflect upon your experiences, and increase the intensity of the later sessions.
  • Payoffs may change in real time – What you or your partner want to do may change during the scene as you and your partner interact.  Headspace can have a profound impact on what you (do not) want to occur which leads to the next point below.
  • We may misunderstand our interests and actually prevent ourselves from maximizing our own benefit.  I have made this point before but until you try something it is difficult to gauge how enjoyable an act will be until you have actually done it.  Additionally, over time our tastes will change and if you do not recognize this you may limit yourself from doing something that you would now really enjoy.
    • Understanding our partner’s interests – If we have trouble understanding our own interests it is even harder to communicate them to our partner.  Just to complicate things a bit more – many subs prefer not knowing details of what will actually happen during a scene and they often times get benefit from knowing that something they will not enjoy in the moment may occur.

As I stated before, only you can decide what your payoffs or benefits are.  Internal reflection, trying new experiences, and conversations with others tend to be the best way to understand what really gets us off.  You should also take time to understand your partner’s desired payoffs.  Whether you are trying to determine your payoffs or your partner’s payoffs be sure you are asking yourselves the right questions.  Knowing your desired payoffs and your partner’s desired payoffs you can have a strategy in a scene to optimize those payoffs so you both have the best experience possible.

My attempt with this post was to connect a non-kinky concept to the interactions of a Dom and sub.  There are a number of tangents I wanted to pursue in this post but I thought it was best to pare it down for now.  I will save those topics (“strategy”, asking the right questions, etc.) for additional posts in the future.  I welcome any feedback you have on this concept for posts or the associated topics. 

Puppy Gear

3 responses to Game Theory in a Scene

  1. Another very interesting entry of yours.
    I will give my opinion although I don’t consider myself expert by any mean. I have participate in many unsuccessful plays so it is just my vision how a scene can be successful.
    Communication a very important factor to any successful scene. Internet is very helpful in this area although there are misunderstandings.
    And if there are such misunderstandings adaptability is very important but in my opinion this is highly depended to the chemistry between Dom and sub.
    When you act as Dom it is important to ‘feel’ your sub during the play and adapt your act accordingly._

  2. Interesting approach however in my opinion it assumes too much that all engaged players are so greedy for getting a good session for themselves that they will play with every available player and force them to do whatever will satisfy their own lust. I would more go with the market place concept of coordination and transformation. I explained why here

    • The comparison of a Dom and sub’s interactions to the Prisoner’s Dilemma is certainly not absolute. Rather it was used to underline the importance of communication between a Dom and a sub; especially as it relates to maximizing mutual payoffs (both the Dom’s and the sub’s payoffs).

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