I often think about different variations on the “What if I had superpowers?” question as I walk home from work. It’s a nice little pastime in my 20 minute commute. I think about what powers would be cool to have, what would be the ramifications of having such powers, who I would tell and why.
As part of one of these thought exercises, the quote, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” popped into my head. From here, my mind quickly branches to various thought bubbles on what it means to have power, how we build and stick to our own ethical codes, how we we abide by or disobey society’s expectations and what it means to be corrupted.
But I don’t want to make this a huge deep ethical dive. Instead I just want to share a gaming anecdote that scratches the surface of one of these branches: sticking to my own ethical boundaries.
The Allure of the Fire Hop
I was playing Mario Kart 8 with some acquaintances online the other day. I tend to be a little better than them and usually win most of the games when we play.
They never use fire hopping (a method to extend boosts by hopping, generally thought of as an accidental byproduct of certain mechanics of the game) and I do not think they even know about it. To help keep the playing field a little more even, I do not use the technique when we play. There has been no communication about it (since we don’t communicate at all); it’s just a personal decision that I made because I think it makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Anyways, we were playing 3DS Piranha Plant Slide and it was a close race. An early red shell put me behind. Just when I caught up nearing the end of the second lap, a well laid banana peel tripped me up, leaving me to play catch-up again!
A slew of coins from the item boxes did not particularly help in slowing my opponent down so it was up to me. I knew my man, Morton, was up to the task! He kicked it into gear, cutting corners and boosting everywhere.
I got to the very last turn just slightly behind the leader. The turn is a perfect setup for fire hopping; a big roundabout where you can get a full drift bonus ending with a flat straightway to the finish.
In this turn, which probably took all of 2 seconds, time felt like it slowed a little as I asked myself if I should stretch my boundaries and fire hop just this once. And I am glad to say that I had a resounding “No” to this question.
I had a beautiful moment of clarity on the importance of winning that race and what it meant for me to stick to the lines I had drawn in the sand. It was not worth winning in a way that bent the rules that I had started the race with.
I think not being particularly competitive helped me bat away the temptation to fire hop. There was a part of me that was glad to lose that race. This part helped support the part of me that did not think it was worth it to bend the rules to win, versus the side of me that ever considered the opportunity to begin with.
The whole situation made me think of Goten’s battle against Trunks in the world tournament in DBZ. They set out various rules at the onset of the battle and then both proceeded to break them throughout the battle.
This battle is a great reminder of how critical decision points are the moments of highest vulnerability when it comes to breaking the rules. They both bend the rules at times where either 1) they would lose if they did not break the rules, or 2) they could win by breaking the rules.
Both of these were combined in my case. I was on the verge of losing the race, and I knew I could win the race by fire hopping on the last bend. That is what made it tempting and why it popped out as meaningful moment to make a conscious decision.
Now I know the ability to fire hop is far from “absolute power” and winning a race in Mario Kart does not present the highest stakes in the world. However, this moment was a poignant one for me. One that I thought was worth reflecting on and sharing.
Gaming is important to me and games act as a great playground to test myself and ask questions of myself before I am forced to do so in a space with more serious repercussions.
Often the moral lines in life are not so clear as “don’t fire hop.” Having a more simply defined space to force me to question my own moral limitations helps me find clarity in a sometimes mukky world.
Even if the lines are not so clear cut, though, I try to force myself to be vigilant and conscious with how I interact with those around me. Every day I have interactions where I give a piece of myself to the world; it’s my job to make sure that piece is aligned with who I am as well as who I want to be.
That’s it for today! Let me know what you think. Have you had any similar gaming experiences that tested personal moral boundaries? And what would you do if you were in this situation?
Until next time, Game On and Learn On!!!
When playing pokemon with other less experienced ones I try not to steamroll them. Other than that I can’t recall having a similar experience, though I must have been in a similar situation sometime. I just can’t pick out a specific example.
Haha Pokémon definitely has a quite diversified array of skill levels, from people picking the cutest Pokémon to people doing their IV and EV training and working on their perfectly balanced teams.
To build on this though, not steamrolling someone is an ethical judgment call… the code behind that decision is personal. I’m curious though by what means you go about not steamrolling. Do you have a less refined team that you use or do you avoid certain Pokémon? This would be the easiest way I can image to “go easy” in a Pokémon match. Alternatively, you could just play really badly, making terrible switches and using weird moves.
The prior would be something that was easier to have a concrete structure around and create an enjoyable space for both players. The latter would be less defined. I’m not sure what the boundary would really be… win by not playing optimally? I could imagine that breaking down the moment things go awry.
Interesting example though!
In my case I play weirdly and make illogical moves, switches or even take risks overall. Sometimes I experiment and try out certain strategies or Pokémon. I guess that’d sum it up 🙂
Being competitive has different layers. There are some that want to win at all costs even if they are already the best (think of Barry Bonds going on the juice when he was already a HOFer.)
Others would rather compete and see how they can do without an “extra advantage”. You are probably this layer seeing how you didn’t fire hop but thought of it.
Yeah, I agree with that.
It is good to note the distinction between the actual judgment of what actions are ethical (own personal codes and how they jive with societal norms) vs. one’s ability to stick to their personal code. The lines are obviously blurred as people’s personal ethical codes evolve over time. Judgment on the first is a pretty tenuous space… judging someone else’s ethical choices often means imposing your own ethical code or at the very least your interpretation of societal norms.
On the other hand, it is a little easier to fault those that clearly break their own code, at least for me. This feels less like imposing a specific code on someone, and more like being disappointed that someone has done something that they themselves deem to be wrong.
We can never be in the heads of others though. Who knows to what degree someone like Barry Bonds (who was a favorite of mine from a very young age) had a personal boundary that he stepped over versus just having a personal code that didn’t align with societal norms?
That’s why I generally stick to judging myself and my little fire hops 🙂 … society can do its thing in the judging space.