Motivated by the pursuit of a systematic computational and algorithmic understanding of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), we present a simple yet unified non-asymptotic local convergence theory for smooth two-player games, which subsumes several discrete-time gradient-based saddle point dynamics. The analysis reveals the surprising nature of the off-diagonal interaction term as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, this interaction term explains the origin of the slowdown effect in the convergence of Simultaneous Gradient Ascent (SGA) to stable Nash equilibria. On the other hand, for the unstable equilibria, exponential convergence can be proved thanks to the interaction term, for four modified dynamics proposed to stabilize GAN training: Optimistic Mirror Descent (OMD), Consensus Optimization (CO), Implicit Updates (IU) and Predictive Method (PM). The analysis uncovers the intimate connections among these stabilizing techniques, and provides detailed characterization on the choice of learning rate. As a by-product, we present a new analysis for OMD proposed in Daskalakis, Ilyas, Syrgkanis, and Zeng  with improved rates.
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