zero-sum game

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zero-sum game (plural zero-sum games)

  1. (game theory) A game (or a similar political or economic system) in which the gains of some players must equal the losses of others.
    Coordinate terms: win-win, lose-lose
    • 2013, Andrew M. Colman, Game Theory and its Applications: In the Social and Biological Sciences, Psychology Press (→ISBN), page 55:
      A zero-sum game, as its name suggests, is one in which, whatever the outcome, the payoffs to the players add up to zero, which means that what one player gains, the other(s) must necessarily lose.
    • 2014, “The Writing's On the Wall”, in Hungry Ghosts, performed by OK Go:
      Listen, I know it's been hard / You know it’s no different for me / We’re less than a zero-sum game now / And baby, we both know that's not how it's supposed to be