Zero Approval Gambit & Zero-Sum Game — A-to-Z Blog Challenge, Literary Terms

ZThe end is now. We have finally come to the last letter. What a trip it has been. I made a challenge almost too difficult. It pushed my creativity to a whole new level. I feel like crying. OMG. I’m really more glad than anything else. While I am happy with the turnout, I am happy to bring my blog back to normal in May.

In this challenge, I’ve learned a lot. More than I thought I knew, and I helped many others learn as well. That’s the biggest compliment of all. I’ve also made some friends, many of whom I wish to know for a very long time.

Today is Zero Approval Gambit and Zero-Sum Game.

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Zero Approval Gambit

We’ve discussed gambits before, but we haven’t really defined them. Gambits originate in chess and is defined as an opening that a player makes by sacrificing a piece in compensation for an advantage. It has since evolved to mean, a device or action, typically entailing risk, that is used to gain an advantage.

Zero Approval is to be completely hated. So for it to be a gambit, it entails that the Hero sacrifices, rather than their life, their reputation and integrity for a greater good. This might involve them admitting to a crime they didn’t commit, or doing something bad to demonstrate they are bad. As a result, they will be hated, hunted, and disgraced. This is a long term to permanent result. To undo it, will take considerable effort.

Batman at the end of The Dark Knight is a prime example of this.


Another great example is Worf in Star Trek TNG, who must accept his family name be disgraced for the good of the Empire.

Doing this serves as an appeal to a greater good. That the Hero being seen as the villain helps the world be a better place. It is a hard thing to do, to let people think you’ve done wrong and never being given the chance to defend yourself or anyone to know who and what you really are.

In Dark Knight Rises, Bane did read the letter from Commissioner Gordon about Batman, though I would argue that people were in a terrified state that they didn’t care and wanted someone, anyone to stop this madness, even if it was Batman. But Batman’s sacrifice paid off, as there was reform in the legal system to imprison criminals more efficiently. So Batman’s Zero Approval Gambit paid off.

Zero-Sum Game

We have so far discussed Game Theory a few times and for our last article, we discuss it once more. Zero-Sum Game is a type of game that is played in which the participants gain/loss is balanced with loss/gain of the other participants.

How we define this is if I win, I get one point. If you lose as a result of me winning, you get negative one point. If we add it together: 1 + -1 = 0. This is defined as a zero-sum game. This can also be seen as being binary.

Generally, in any conflict of the story, the final result is win or lose. One who wins and the other who loses. Very black and white. When you draw it out like a math equation, it sounds like a boring story. That’s why the narrative is so important to make a balance system interesting.

There are way too many examples to really express this…simply put, when a narrative has a clear winner and a clear loser, it can be defined as a Zero-Sum game.

There is such a thing as a Non-Zero Sum Game. This is where a final result of the game doesn’t equal zero. Perhaps both protagonist and antagonist both gain something, even though the antagonist lost and his reward is smaller. Perhaps the Antagonist lost, but his loss was not as severe as the win achieved by the Antagonist. This can be seen in Xanatos Gambit.

Zero Approval Gambit & Zero-Sum Game

Funny for my last letter that I end on Zero. And both deal with the final outcome of a conflict, the final score. In both examples, when we analyze the situation at the end, we must understand what has changed. Zero-sum game can tell us this, or even a Non-Zero Sum game. If the result is bad, but our protagonist is still alive, perhaps there is one last thing he can do to make a different, even by sacrificing his good name.

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