Two-stage non-cooperative games with risk-averse players

Jong Shi Pang, Suvrajeet Sen, Uday V. Shanbhag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This paper formally introduces and studies a non-cooperative multi-agent game under uncertainty. The well-known Nash equilibrium is employed as the solution concept of the game. While there are several formulations of a stochastic Nash equilibrium problem, we focus mainly on a two-stage setting of the game wherein each agent is risk-averse and solves a rival-parameterized stochastic program with quadratic recourse. In such a game, each agent takes deterministic actions in the first stage and recourse decisions in the second stage after the uncertainty is realized. Each agent’s overall objective consists of a deterministic first-stage component plus a second-stage mean-risk component defined by a coherent risk measure describing the agent’s risk aversion. We direct our analysis towards a broad class of quantile-based risk measures and linear-quadratic recourse functions. For this class of non-cooperative games under uncertainty, the agents’ objective functions can be shown to be convex in their own decision variables, provided that the deterministic component of these functions have the same convexity property. Nevertheless, due to the non-differentiability of the recourse functions, the agents’ objective functions are at best directionally differentiable. Such non-differentiability creates multiple challenges for the analysis and solution of the game, two principal ones being: (1) a stochastic multi-valued variational inequality is needed to characterize a Nash equilibrium, provided that the players’ optimization problems are convex; (2) one needs to be careful in the design of algorithms that require differentiability of the objectives. Moreover, the resulting (multi-valued) variational formulation cannot be expected to be of the monotone type in general. The main contributions of this paper are as follows: (a) Prior to addressing the main problem of the paper, we summarize several approaches that have existed in the literature to deal with uncertainty in a non-cooperative game. (b) We introduce a unified formulation of the two-stage SNEP with risk-averse players and convex quadratic recourse functions and highlight the technical challenges in dealing with this game. (c) To handle the lack of smoothness, we propose smoothing schemes and regularization that lead to differentiable approximations. (d) To deal with non-monotonicity, we impose a generalized diagonal dominance condition on the players’ smoothed objective functions that facilitates the application and ensures the convergence of an iterative best-response scheme. (e) To handle the expectation operator, we rely on known methods in stochastic programming that include sampling and approximation. (f) We provide convergence results for various versions of the best-response scheme, particularly for the case of private recourse functions. Overall, this paper lays the foundation for future research into the class of SNEPs that provides a constructive paradigm for modeling and solving competitive decision making problems with risk-averse players facing uncertainty; this paradigm is very much at an infancy stage of research and requires extensive treatment in order to meet its broad applications in many engineering and economics domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-290
Number of pages56
JournalMathematical Programming
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • General Mathematics


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