In groups of two, students must simultaneously decide to play one of two actions in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game: Cooperate or Defect. The intersection of their chosen actions determines the students’ payoffs.
This game is a good intro to basic game theory. It shows the conflicting incentives of cooperation and self-interest. The highest payoff is achieved when both students choose the action, Cooperate, but there is always a temptation to unilaterally Defect for a higher private payoff. Use this classic game to teach students why cooperative outcomes may be difficult to achieve in the real world, and that repeated play can lead to more cooperation.
Alternatively see MobLab’s Push and Pull for a non-matrix prisoner’s dilemma.