Most applications of game theory are descriptive in nature and focus primarily on the rules of a game, choices available to the players, payoff structures, whether the issue in question is more suitable for iterated or noniterated games, and so on. The usual objective is to identify the appropriate analogy for a specific situation and derive strategies to achieve the best outcome, given the payoffs. Axelrod ( 1984), Lindskold, Betz, and Walters ( 1986), Mueller ( 1987), and Brains and Kilgour ( 1988) are four examples, each providing an alternative strategy for achieving the best outcome in a mixed-motive interaction.
In a similar vein, a portion of the game-theoretic work is directed toward "solution concepts" -- that is, theories of choice -- that focus on predicting payoff outcomes in N-person, side-payment games ( Michener, Yuen, and Geisheker 1980; Michener and Potter 1981; Shubik 1986). These games are analytical extensions of the traditional "chicken" and "prisoner's dilemma" (PD) games, based largely on theories of rational choice as they pertain to cooperation, bargaining, and distributional strategies in the economic realm. The objective is to develop and test models that predict payoffs from cooperative agreements and the distribution of gains among the participants. Since this particular dimension of game theory does not directly address the conflict / cooperation transition in terms of security issues, it will not be discussed further.
Others approach the subject from the "top down," treating game theory as a deductive model of international relations ( Oye 1985;