Kingmaking is a seemingly inescapable problem faced by anyone who has ever played a three-player game. Have you ever heard a player say "oh, they let you win" or "you all ganged up on me" or "and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids..." It's all just Kingmaking.
Imagine that you are running for student council, and losing badly. The top two candidates are running neck and neck, and they both ask you for your support. You have just enough pull with the Game Theory Club to put either candidate into the lead. What do you do?
This scenario aptly describes the end of most three-player games. One player is in last place and gets to decide which of the remaining players wins the game. This can have multiple effects on players' feelings at the end of the game. Players can feel like they didn't deserve to win or lose, because it wasn't fully within their control—a third player chose the outcome. Players can also feel like the other players teamed up on them, meaning that that the game isn't fair.
Games where players have to spend resources to stop someone from winning often spin into a subtle game of Kingmaker. As soon as someone decides to hold back their resources to try to win on their own, they've helped decide the final state of the game.
Episodes featuring Kingmaking