Bis Thomas C. Shelling seine Arbeiten zur “Strategy of Conflict” veröffentlicht hat, waren Zero-Sum-Games das beherrschende Motiv in der Spieltheorie, also Spiele, bei denen des einen Verlust des anderen Gewinn war. Shelling kommt das Verdienst zu, auf die Bedeutung gemischter Spiele, von Kooperationsspielen in Besonderen und Spielen gegenseitiger Abhängigkeit hingewiesen zu haben.
“On the strategy of pure conflict – the zero-sum games – game theory has yielded important insights and advice. But on the strategy of action where conflict is mixed with mutual dependence – the nonzero-sum games involved in wars and threats of war, strikes, negotiations, criminal deterrence, class war, race war, price war, and blackmail; maneuvering in a bureaucracy or in a traffic jam; and the coercion of one’s own children – traditional game theory has not yielded comparable insight or advice. These are the ‘games’ in which, though the element of conflict provides the dramatic interest, mutual dependence is part of the logical structure and demands some kind of collaboration or mutual accommodation – tacit, if not explicit – even if only in the avoidance of mutual disaster. These are also games in which though secrecy may play a strategic role, there is some essential need for the signaling of intentions and the meeting of minds. Finally, they are games in which what one player can do to avert mutual damage affects what another player will do to avert it, so that it is not always an advantage to possess initiative, knowledge, or freedom of choice” (Thomas Shelling, The Strategy of Conflict, p.83).