New scientific paper explores the ways that Mario Kart can help reduce poverty and improve global sustainability

Originally published at: New scientific paper explores the ways that Mario Kart can help reduce poverty and improve global sustainability | Boing Boing




More blue shells please.


This boosting principle is called “rubber banding,”

No, rubber banding is when falling behind makes the other cars get faster. It’s related but it’s not the same thing as the item weighting. (And it only affects computer-controlled racers, not human ones, so it’s not a great analogy in this case.)

The trouble with the blue shell – in the analogy and in the games themselves – is that it doesn’t do jack to help the person who fires it. How in the hell does taking out the person in first help you if you’re in twelfth?

Now, lightning bolts, those help you if you’re in last place, because they affect everyone, not just the driver in first. But the best powerup if you’ve fallen behind is the Bullet Bill.

“Eef-a Gold Mario canna win by three full laps the that’s-a socialee-zum!”


If you are in second to last, and the last place person gets a Bullet Bill power up, it is very annoying. That is what the GOP is always telling people is happening when we have social benefits like subsidizing health care etc.

More blue shells… and keep 'em coming! is more like it.

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Don’t you mean slower? The other cars do get faster if you are out at the front and there is a gap between you and second place.

I’ve played a few badly designed games where you have to stay in second place and only overtake into first just before the chequered flag, otherwise you will never win.

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…why would they get slower if they’re already behind?

I think you may be seeing a dangling participle that isn’t there. “Falling behind” and “get faster” both refer to the same subject, “the other cars”.

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It’s probably my dyslexia and my brain trying to make sense of it.

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Fuck the blue shell.

I’ve had friends that don’t try to win on purpose and have more fun playing the game of extorting the other players. I’ve also played with really good players that stay far enough back to get the shell in the beginning, use their skill to catch up, and only use the shell on the final lap to guarantee a win.

When the game is such that the guy in first starts out two laps ahead of everybody and has horded all the other power-ups, the blue shell is the only thing that makes the game playable. Soak the rich.

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And yet my recent paper exploring the effects of climate change on Australia’s only endemic Pokémon doesn’t get a boing boing article, smdh

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Sometimes people are playing more than one game. There are plenty of people are willing to king make in one game they don’t care about to get ahead of the one they care about. That’s before you factor that maybe the metric you are using for winning isn’t really the correct way to measure it.

There is this terrible game that I’ve wasted a lot of hours with friends called Dokapon Kingdom. It is broken in many ways, but basically it is rock-paper-sisors, monopoly and a basic RPG all rolled in one. There is a story mode where you are competing to complete chapters which grants you money and whoever has the most money at the end of the last chapter wins.

There are basically two stats in this game. Money and character strength. Character strength is used to beat monsters and your fellow players and grants you money and/or items. There is a catch-up mechanism where the person with the least money can destroy the net-worth of everyone and temporarily destroy the strength of others leveling the playing feild.

The highest level character in theory should be the one with the most money or at the very least close to the top. My friend broke that game for me because he turned it into an infinate loop of misery. He was the strongest character, but because the metric being used to determine who was ahead was money he purposefully lost all of it to just activate that catch-up mechanism over and over. When we tried to advance the story so he would lose; he was strong enough to stop us from doing so…

Well clearly you should have sent this to me sooner cuz it’s right up my alley!


Aside from the incentive of norm enforcement(I’m not an expert on the relevant research; but it’s my layman’s understanding that even some primates will object to perceived fairness violations in some constructed situations; and humans, also at least in constructed-game-probably-being-played-by-American-college-students situations, demonstrate a desire to punish perceived norm violations, even when you construct the rules such that people must make themselves worse off in order to inflict a punishment); I’d assume that the big impact of the blue shell or its analogs isn’t in what it does for the person firing it; but what it does to the behavior and thinking of people who are in the position to potentially be in first place.

This obviously has limited room to change things in Mario Kart, since that’s a game where every race must always have someone in first and it’s always a matter of ranked winners without any sort of altruistic/mutually-beneficial outcomes defined; but in a real-world context the ‘blue shell’ would presumably be a strong disincentive toward being ostentatiously better-off and/or flaunting one’s advantage rather than at least being polite about it; if not at least making gestures in the direction of altruism/reducing inequality(eg. the various museums and things with Robber Barons’ names on them).

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Video games definitely offer a lot of interesting items for ‘balance’ related research; given that they do a massive amount of (sometimes informal/‘by-feel’; sometimes fairly intensively metrics-driven) of experimenting with different mechanics and tweaks to maintain fun and engagement by fiddling with balancing mechanics, some visible and some silent; but for most of them(certainly for Mario Kart) one major issue seems like the fact that, unlike real world situations, games tend to be about trying to craft a process that is fun(or at least addictive) that leads to an outcome that has winners and losers.

That aspect doesn’t map terribly well to real world situations(and, where it does, you probably don’t want it to): where the constraints on whether the process can be made fun or not are much less a process of game design and much more a question of how to make getting the work necessary to keep people in goods and services done less miserable and dangerous; but where there is also a lot more room for people to ‘win enough’ as an outcome; rather than a ranked order of winners and losers.

There’s also the fact that life is something you do once; while video games tend to be something you do repeatedly; which leads to potentially radical differences in what someone working from a Rawls original position/veil of ignorance would be willing to accept:

A lot of online games, going back at least as far as the various FPS deathmatch classics; more recently with stuff like the Battle Royale genre or minigame collections like Fall Guys; are not actually very ‘fair’ from the perspective of a single round: anything with randomized equipment spawns can easily land you with total garbage or absolutely overpowered gear; you can get a great spawn point or get dropped right into someone’s crosshairs; etc. However, each round is fairly short and everyone runs the same risks of RNG working out for or against them so, from the perspective of someone who expects to play a number of rounds, the situation is ‘fair’ (potentially even more desirable than perfect fairness, since sometimes playing underdog and sometimes getting to power-trip a bit can be desirable variety).

In life, everyone plays one round and it lasts a lifetime; which makes the original-position assessment of what sorts of hands you can be dealt rather different: getting screwed over by RNG means living a miserable existence and then dying; rather than getting to pop into a new game with new parameters in 5 minutes.

that’s kind of the point of steep progressive taxation and inheritance taxes. you do want to make each new person’s life somewhat equal, and not overweight some people’s status

maybe an individual person’s round is their tax year. :slight_smile:

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I actually couldn’t find the submit page. :-/

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