There is a game called Chicken, in which two people drive two very fast cars towards each other from opposite ends of a long straight road. If one of them swerves before the other, he is called a chicken. Of course, if neither swerves, they will crash. The worst possible payoff is to crash into each other, so we assign this a value 0. The best payoff is to have your opponent be the chicken, so we assign this a value 3. The next to worst possibility is to be the chicken, so we assign this a value 1. The last possibility is that both drivers swerve. Then, neither has less honor than the other, so this is preferable to being the chicken. However, it is not quite as good as being the victor, so we assign it a value 2. We could assign a payoff matrix to this:

Swerve   Drive Straight  
Swerve 2, 2 1, 3
Drive Straight   3, 1 0, 0

Unlike the prisoner's dilemma, mutual defection is the worst outcome in chicken. Both players want to do the opposite of what the other player does.

The version of chicken with more than two players is known as the volunteer's dilemma. In a volunteer's dilemma, one player needs to take an action that will benefit all of the players. For instance, suppose James Bond, Paris Carver, and Wai Lin are locked in three sound-proof cells by Elliot Carver. In one hour, Elliott will release poison gas into their cells unless at least one of the three pushes a button. Whoever pushes the button will be immediately killed, but the other two will be released immediately. The three cannot communicate or coordinate their efforts.

If any of the three are to survive, one of them must sacrifice himself or herself. The least disturbing case is when all three reach the same conclusion about who should be sacrificed. In this case, the martyr will push the button, and the others will be spared. A second possibility is that all players decide to save each other. Then there will be a race to push the button first. The most disturbing case is when each player decides that he or she should be saved. When this happens, none push the button and the clock ticks away.

Suppose that you are Bond, and Paris and Wai Lin have not pushed the button by the end of 59 minutes. It seems that they have decided that you should sacrifice yourself, but you don't want to do that. There is no point in vowing to never push the button because then all three of you will die. Ideally, you want to push the button in the last possible second. However, there is no way to determine exactly when this is, so the resolution of the conflict rides on chance and reflexes.

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