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    #1

    Zero-sum game

    In the American media, it is very fashionable nowadays to refer to something as being a "zero-sum game."

    I have checked my online dictionaries and realize that it means (as Dictionary.com says): "The sum of the gains equals the sum of the losses."

    Could someone give me an example of how zero-sum works in real life?

    I need someone to spoonfeed me the answer.


    Thank you,



    James

  1. Grumpy's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Zero-sum game

    Let's imagine we are playing a game of spinning a coin and betting 1 on which way up it lands. I bet it will land "heads" up. It lands "tails" up, and so I pay you 1. You have gained 1, and I have lost 1. That is a zero-sum game.
    Now, suppose that every time we played the game, the loser had to put an extra 10p into a collecting pot for charity. This time I guess correctly, so you pay me 1, and put 10p into the collecting pot. I have gained 1, and you have lost 1.10. That is not a zero-sum game.

    In real life, let's suppose you sue me for libel and win. The court awards you 1000 damages, which I have to pay you. So I lose 1000, and you gain 1000 - which would be a zero-sum game.
    However, if one or both of us has hired lawyers, their fees will have to be paid, and that will make suing me not a zero-sum game.
    Last edited by Grumpy; 06-Jan-2015 at 17:41.
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

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    #3

    Re: Zero-sum game

    It is a term that is rarely used correctly- I mostly hear it used to suggest that something involves a loss.

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Zero-sum game

    Two teams are playing a basketball game. One side wins. The other side loses.

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    #5

    Re: Zero-sum game

    The thing is this: as theoretical games, zero sum games are not interesting. One side wins, the other side loses. Ho hum. Many far more interesting games have been invented, the most obvious example being The Prisoner's Dilemma.

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