Created By: CrankyStorming on October 21, 2012 Last Edited By: COFFEENEBULA on March 3, 2014

Negative Score

A score of less than 0 points.

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Trope
In a challenge where the participant's score is a number, they usually tend to score above zero. But when they do so irredeemably badly, not even that is achievable for them and their score is a number with a minus sign next to it. For extra laughs, they might not notice the minus sign.

Compare F Minus Minus and Improbably Low IQ. If used in a review for a work, see also Broke the Rating Scale.

Examples

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    Card Games 
  • Contract games such as bridge or pinochle involve setting a point goal, then playing to achieve it. Failure to attain the point goal results in a subtraction from the players' total. Bridge opponents can double to increase the penalty when they think it's warranted.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Your life total usually begins at twenty, and you usually lose when you get to zero. It's possible to be dealt damage greater than your life total, causing you to have negative life; you're still dead. But there are some cards (such as "Lich's Tomb") that allow you to continue to play even though your life total is negative.
    • Also, under the original rules of the game, game loss would only be checked at certain points during the turn, meaning you could have a negative life total and keep on playing — for a little while. The card "Mirror Universe" took advantage of this by allowing you to switch your life total with another player's.
    • And, on another scale, creatures have both a power and toughness rating. Certain effects can decrease a creature's power below zero. It's considered to have zero power for dealing damage (in other words, it can't "deal negative damage".) A creature dies if its toughness is zero or below, though.

    Literature 
  • The Discworld novel Thud! features a troll named Brick with a possibly negative IQ depending on how hot or cold it is.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In QI, minus scores are such a regular occurrence that Stephen Fry has to indicate his surprise when someone has a plus score.
  • On one episode of The Vicar of Dibley, Alice Tinker faces off against David Horton at the village quiz. Thanks to Geraldine rigging the quiz in Alice's favor, David is at minus ten points two questions in. By the end of the quiz he's managed to claw his way back up to zero.
  • One of the "Math Videos" on Square One TV, "Less Than Zero", is this trope in song form, featuring a loser who gets a negative score in every competition he participates in. Amusingly, he's actually rather proud of the fact and boasts about it.
  • On Jeopardy!, players are penalized on wrong answers for the same amount they would have earned for a correct answer, so it is quite possible for a player to finish with a negative score. If they still have a zero or negative score after "Double Jeopardy!", they're disqualified from "Final Jeopardy!" and don't even get to stick around and chat during the closing credits.

    Other Games 
  • Darts has a peculiar scoring system in that all players start with a fixed point total, usually 501 or 301, and throw three darts per turn to determine how much is subtracted from that total. The winner is the first player to attain zero by exact count. Curiously, three darts in the triple band of the 20 section subtract 180 from the player's total, while three darts dead center subtract only 150.

    Radio 
  • The Unbelievable Truth is another Panel Show where it's easy for guests to lose points by being overzealous with the buzzer. On a typical episode, the final spread tends to be from about -2 to 4.

    Sports 
  • In golf, the goal of the game is to use the fewest strokes possible to put the ball in the hole. This score can be represented as an absolute stroke count (in which case it's always positive), or in relation to par, the score a reasonably competent golfer is expected to have by the end of the match. As a result, in professional matches scores of "X under par" are quite common.
  • If an American Football running back or quarterback is having a really bad day, his rushing or passing yardage can be a negative number. For example, if a runner is pushed back from the line of scrimmage 2 yards that run is recorded as -2.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Monopoly, if you are mortgaged to the hilt it's perfectly possible to have a negative net worth.
  • In Dominion, Curse cards have negative value, so in a particularly bad game it is possible (but extremely rare) to end with a negative score

    Video Games 
  • In Roll Away, your score for a failed attempt at a level is taken away from your running total and you get a Game Over if the total goes into the minus numbers.
  • Your score can only be in the negatives in Plumbers Don't Wear Ties. In fact, the highest score you can get is -170,000.
  • In QWOP, score is based on the distance you managed to run without tripping. Due to the game's wacky controls, this can easily result in a negative number if you fall backwards close to the starting line.
  • Similar to the above: in the Wii Party game "Lofty Leap" it is perfectly possible to let go of the rope at the wrong time, throw yourself backwards, and get a score in negative meters.
  • In the Interactive Fiction game Curses!, it is possible to inadvertently destroy the entire universe. This earns you a negative score and a suitable title.
  • You Don't Know Jack lets you go into the negatives by answering the questions wrong. The host is all too happy to point out how much you suck.
  • In South Park licensed game Chefs Luv Shack, it is possible to gain negative score for one's answers. The one who has less wins!

    Web Original 
  • In Code MENT, Suzaku scores negative on his IQ test.

    Western Animation 
  • The Family Guy episode "Killer Queen" involves a hot dog eating contest. While everybody is eating as many as they can, Mayor Adam West begins pulling full hot dogs out of his mouth, as the counter above him starts counting his negative score.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy's Improbably Low IQ is -5, compared to the +17 of a shovel and two candy bracelets.
  • The Simpsons: When Marge goes on Jeopardy! she ends up with a negative score, and Alex Trebek confronts her in the parking lot insisting that she write the show a check for the difference. "You said you understood the rules."

Indexes: Number Tropes,

Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • October 22, 2012
    StarSword
    TV:
    • On one episode of The Vicar Of Dibley, Alice Tinker faces off against David Horton at the village quiz. Thanks to Geraldine rigging the quiz in Alice's favor, David is at minus ten points two questions in. By the end of the quiz he's managed to claw his way back up to zero.
  • October 23, 2012
    Frank75
    Some examples on Improbably Low IQ.
  • October 23, 2012
    saintdane05
  • October 23, 2012
    DracMonster
    We got this one - Broke The Rating Scale.
  • October 23, 2012
    StarSword
    Except Broke The Rating Scale applies to scores by reviewers. This trope is for In Universe examples.
  • October 23, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Hmmm... In QWOP, score is based on the distance you managed to run without tripping. Due to the game's wacky controls, this can easily result in a negative number if you fall backwards close to the starting line.
  • October 23, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    This happens to Marge Simpson when she went on Jeopardy on The Simpsons. The host threatened her afterwards.
  • October 23, 2012
    DaibhidC
    Similar to the above: in the Wii Party game "Lofty Leap" it is perfectly possible to let go of the rope at the wrong time, throw yourself backwards, and get a score in negative meters.
  • October 23, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    One of the "Math Videos" on Square One TV, "Less Than Zero", is this trope in song form, featuring a loser who gets a negative score in every competition he participates in. Amusingly, he's actually rather proud of the fact and boasts about it.
  • October 29, 2012
    StarSword
    Sports
    • In golf, the actual goal of the game is to have your score, based on how many strokes it took to get the ball in the hole, as low as possible. This can be represented in an absolute stroke count (in which case it's always positive), or in relation to par, the score a reasonably competent golfer is expected to have by the end of the match. As a result, in professional matches scores of "X under par" are quite common.
  • December 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    If an American Football running back or quarterback is having a really bad day, his rushing or passing yardage can be a negative number. For example, if a runner is pushed back from the line of scrimmage 2 yards that run is recorded as -2.
  • December 30, 2012
    Ryusui
    • In the Interactive Fiction game Curses, it is possible to inadvertently destroy the entire universe. This earns you a negative score and a suitable title.
  • December 30, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    EDIT: My mistake. The Plumbers Dont Wear Ties example should say highest like it was before. Literally the highest score you can get is -170,000. I should have done my research before saying that.
  • January 2, 2013
    JoeG
    • On Jeopardy, players are penalized on wrong answers for the same amount they would have earned for a correct answer, so it is quite possible for a player to finish with a negative score.
  • February 20, 2014
    StarSword
    Dug this out of Development Hell.
  • February 20, 2014
    spacemarine50
    Does this resulting from a glitch count?
  • February 20, 2014
    StarSword
    ^Considering we have tropes for bugs elsewhere, I don't see why not.
  • February 20, 2014
    gallium
    Tabletop Games

    • In Monopoly, if you are mortgaged to the hilt it's perfectly possible to have a negative net worth.
  • February 20, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    There's most likely a whole bunch of first-person shooters, fighting games etc that, at least in one mode, calculate your score as kills minus deaths, meaning that someone is bound to get a negative score. (Eg, Super Smash Bros series scores this way in time-limit matches.) This is so common though that listing individual examples might be unfeasible.

  • February 20, 2014
    Premonition45
    About Jeopardy, if a player still has a zero or negative score by the end of "Double Jeopardy!", not only are they disqualified from "Final Jeopardy!", they don't get to stay to chat afterwards.
  • February 20, 2014
    StarSword
    ^That's a misuse of Unperson, BTW.
  • February 21, 2014
    henke37
    • You Don'tKnowJack lets you go into the negatives by answering the questions wrong. The host is all too happy to point out how much you suck.
  • February 21, 2014
    Generality
    The Unbelievable Truth is another Panel Show where it's easy for guests to lose points by being overzealous with the buzzer. On a typical episode, the final spread tends to be from about -2 to 4.
  • February 21, 2014
    StarSword
    Hats? Description thoughts?
  • February 21, 2014
    erforce
    • In South Park licensed game Chef's Luv Shack, it is possible to gain negative score for one's answers. The one who has less wins!
  • February 22, 2014
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons: When Marge goes on Jeopardy! she ends up with a negative score, and Alex Trebek confronts her in the parking lot insisting that she write the show a check for the difference. "You said you understood the rules."
  • February 22, 2014
    robinjohnson
    The title is a bit of a mouthful. Why not just Negative Score?
  • February 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Agree
  • February 23, 2014
    hevendor717
    @henke37: I found that out on a hilarious Game Grumps animation. I mean, if you guys are looking for trope images.
  • February 25, 2014
    StarSword
    Changed the title.
  • February 25, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Card Games
    • Contract games such as bridge or pinochle involve setting a point goal, then playing to achieve it. Failure to attain the point goal results in a subtraction from the players' total. Bridge opponents can double to increase the penalty when they think it's warranted.
  • February 26, 2014
    Boston
    In Magic: The Gathering, your life total usually begins at twenty, and you usually lose when you get to zero. It's possible to be dealt damage greater than your life total, causing you to have negative life; you're still dead. But there are some cards (such as Lich's Tomb) that allow you to continue to play even though your life total is negative.

    Also, under the original rules of the game, game loss would only be checked at certain points during the turn, meaning you could have a negative life total and keep on playing — for a little while. One card (Mirror Universe) took advantage of this, by allowing you to switch your life total with another player's.

    And, on another scale, creatures have both a power and toughness rating. Certain effects can decrease a creature's power below zero. It's considered to have zero power for dealing damage (in other words, it can't "deal negative damage".) A creature dies if its toughness is zero or below, though.
  • February 28, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Miscellaneous
    • Darts has a peculiar scoring system in that all players start with a fixed point total, usually 501 or 301, and throw three darts per turn to determine how much is subtracted from that total. The winner is the first player to attain zero by exact count. Curiously, three darts in the triple band of the 20 section subtract 180 from the player's total, while three darts dead center subtract only 150.
  • March 3, 2014
    StarSword
    Hats? Examples? Description thoughts?
  • March 3, 2014
    ShiningwingX
    The description seems to suggest that the negative score is meant to be indicative of how horrendously bad the person is. However, I'm seeing an awful lot of examples that feature lower scores as a mechanic. I think you should add something explaining that this is not for just anything featuring a negative score, only for when it's depicted as bad. I'm also seeing examples relating to characters with Improbably Low IQ. Those would probably be better placed under that page than here.
  • March 3, 2014
    StarSword
    ^Actually I'm fairly sure the OP and I both wanted this to be negative-number scores in general. (I'm sure I do, and given the OP took my golf example I think we can count him in.) Problem is I'm just not all that good at writing descriptions.
  • March 3, 2014
    ShiningwingX
    The description suggests otherwise, and if anything it's the very idea that the negative numbers suggest a level of supreme badness that would make this tropeworthy. Simply using negative numbered "things" in general would make this People Sit On Chairs since there's no storytelling purpose behind it.
  • March 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Maybe what's more tropable is that someone ends up having negative overall score.
  • March 3, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Music
    • Al Yankovic's parody song "I Lost On Jeopardy" has announcer Don Pardo critique poor Al, pointing out that he rang up the lowest score ever, and won't be eligible for Final Jeopardy. "You don't even get a copy of the home game. You're a complete loser." Of course, no actual total is mentioned, just in case someone in Real Life scores lower.

    > I'm agreeing with Shining Wing X: a negative score as an ordinary mechanic such as golf or darts isn't somehow indicative of anything. It's a pure happenstance that can't advance the plot or flesh out a character. No, the score has to be a "Wow, you suck at this" device, so the negative score reflects that. It'd be especially potent to score below zero in any game that doesn't normally have negative scores, like bowling or tennis.

    Card games with negative scores would apply, since there are games with penny-a-point stakes or similar.

    Anime
    • The Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt episode "The Stripping" has the angel sisters playing roulette in a casino run by the demon sisters. Once Kneesocks takes over as croupier, the angels begin a losing streak until they have nothing. At this point they begin selling their clothing piecemeal to raise wagering stakes, becoming ever more denuded in the process.
  • March 3, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^In the video for "I Lost on Jeopardy" Al just has a zero score. FWIW.
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