I have a game where players will play 2x2 decision matrix games. (Prisoner's Dilemma, Battle of the Sexes, Stag Hunt, etc). There are two players, a primary player (blue, on the horizontal part of the matrix) and a secondary player (red, on the vertical part of the matrix). Both players can make a binary decision. There are 4 potential payoffs depending on the combinations of the two players decisions. Unlike academic examples, the payoffs in this game are not symmetrical or mirrored. Each payoff value is a random number between -100 and 100. The payoff affects the players score.

This is the core gameplay mechanic so I need it to be intuitive and enjoyable. I've been play testing it myself and I immediately feel that the information is hard to take in.

Right now I have this very basic approach:

Prisoners Dilemma

So in this case, if the primary (blue) player takes action and the secondary (red) player does nothing, the primary player will lose 10 points and the secondary player will gain 40 points.

How can I improve this interface to maximize ease of use?

  • 3
    I think the problem is that I do not understand what the numbers mean. Maybe try and add some context. Use a tutorial or labels. After a few runs with help, your users will get it. Help your users during the learning curve. Jun 6, 2017 at 14:14
  • I don't understand neither Jun 6, 2017 at 14:19
  • @NGAFD I've edited the question to explain that those numbers affect the players score and give an example. I understand the game too well at this point and feel unsure what context or labels will be needed for a new user.
    – Goose
    Jun 6, 2017 at 14:19
  • What do you mean by: "You are the secondary" ? Jun 6, 2017 at 14:36
  • @DimitraMiha you are the secondary player. The red player. The player on the vertical part of the decision matrix. I will edit the question to explain.
    – Goose
    Jun 6, 2017 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


In general, too much interpretation is required.

The concepts of "Primary" and "Secondary" player are confusing to the reader. I understand they're probably crucial to the game dynamic, so they should be supplemented with some more familiar terms.

  1. Refer to 'You' and 'Opponent' (or similar appropriate word), in addition to the concepts of 'Primary' and 'Secondary'.

  2. Use Natural Language - e.g. "Both players act", rather than requiring the interpretation of the table format.

  3. Use color coding - not to distinguish players, but to quickly show positive and negative outcomes.
  4. Use both minus symbol (-) and plus symbol (+) - in combination with the colors, this makes it even more obvious which are the positive and negative outcomes.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • This is unlike most academic visualizations of the prisoners dilemma, but it's very effective. I will give time for others to answer before accepting, but I like this approach very much.
    – Goose
    Jun 6, 2017 at 15:04

Building off dennislees excellent answer (which you should read first for context), I came up with this:


I split the 4 payoffs into 2 categories based on the decision within the users control. This puts the focus on the binary choice in front of the user.

A key part of this game is understanding what your opponent wants to do, so I added a switch perspective button to help visualize your opponents payoffs:

switch perspective

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