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On the structure of weakly acyclic games

Theory of Computing Systems, vol. 53 (2013), pp. 107-122

Abstract

The class of weakly acyclic games, which includes potential games and dominance-solvable games, captures many practical application domains. In a weakly acyclic game, from any starting state, there is a sequence of better-response moves that leads to a pure Nash equilibrium; informally, these are games in which natural distributed dynamics, such as better-response dynamics, cannot enter inescapable oscillations. We establish a novel link between such games and the existence of pure Nash equilibria in subgames. Specifically, we show that the existence of a unique pure Nash equilibrium in every subgame implies the weak acyclicity of a game. In contrast, the possible existence of multiple pure Nash equilibria in every subgame is insufficient for weak acyclicity in general; here, we also systematically identify the special cases (in terms of the number of players and strategies) for which this is sufficient to guarantee weak acyclicity.

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