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
open/close all folders
- 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.
- The Discworld novel Thud! features a troll named Brick with a possibly negative IQ depending on how hot or cold it is.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 Dont 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!
- In Code MENT, Suzaku scores negative on his IQ test.
- 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."