Reviving the Classic: Exploring Game Theory with The Prisoner’s Dilemma Web App

In the ever-evolving landscape of web applications, there are timeless classics that continue to captivate and educate users. One such gem from the ’90s is the revival of the educational Java applet known as “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.” While it may not boast the cutting-edge technology of today, it offers a fascinating window into the world of game theory and artificial life.
Screenshot spatial prisoner's dilemma

Understanding the Concept

The Prisoner’s Dilemma” is a spatial variant of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, a simple yet powerful model that delves into the complexities of cooperation and conflict within groups. In this interactive simulation, users can witness the dynamics of altruism and exploitation for personal gain among individuals learning from their experiences.

The Game Mechanics

At its core, the applet simulates the behavior of cells in a grid. Each cell’s actions are influenced by its neighboring cells, creating a dynamic interplay. The initial strategies of these cells, whether cooperative or defection, are determined randomly based on user-defined parameters.

The Payoff Matrix

Central to the simulation is the “payoff matrix.” It calculates the rewards and consequences of cooperation and defection for each cell. The applet employs this matrix to evaluate the best strategy for each cell in every round based on its interactions with neighbors.

Frequently Asked Questions

The app’s FAQ section addresses common queries about its mechanics and phenomena. It explains how the cells make decisions, the purpose of the “delay” feature, and intriguing phenomena like the emergence of patterns such as the “walking figure.”

Suggested Experiments

To enhance user engagement, the web app suggests various experiments users can conduct. These experiments involve tweaking parameters like “b” values and “p” values to observe how different conditions affect the behavior of the cell population.

Educational Resources

The web app provides links to valuable educational resources on game theory and related topics, enabling users to dive deeper into this fascinating field.


While “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” web app may hail from a different era of the internet, its educational value remains undiminished. It offers a unique opportunity for users to explore the intricate balance between cooperation and self-interest in a simulated environment. So, why not take a step back in time and discover the enduring relevance of this classic web application?

Whether you’re an educator, a student of game theory, or simply curious about artificial life, this revival of “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” provides a valuable and insightful experience. Explore the app and embark on your journey into the world of strategic decision-making and cooperative behavior.