Monday, January 2, 2012

Mario Kart 7 and the Right to Win

Mario Kart 7
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo EAD/Retro Studios
N.A. Release: December 2011

If you want to incite gamer rage (and I don't say that like it's a hard thing to do), remember two simple words: Blue Shell.

Regardless of the teeming numbers of people who still adore this series, odds are you'll be bombarded with racers relating in huffy terms their recollections of  getting hit with one of these leader-seeking missiles just 2 feet (it's almost always "just 2 feet") from the finish line, costing them the win, and how and these game-breaking abominations should've been removed after Mario Kart 64. 

They're one of the most divisive items in video games, yet consider this: everyone in a Mario Kart race has the same objective. Some actual driving skill does apply in achieving this goal, but at any given time on the field, the person in first might've have been much farther in the pack and the player in last might've been the leader just 20 seconds earlier. Heck, they may have been a victim of a Blue Shell midway through the race, but that doesn't tend to draw much whining. It's the end where we have placed all the importance, and how dare we let luck or circumstance determine the victor there. That's skill's realm, even if every part of the race leading up to it has been a whirlwind of mindblowing wackitude.

This is what we consider fair; consider "real." Except it kind of isn't.

How many times have you heard of the more deserving candidate being overlooked for the promotion, or the obviously weaker team winning the big game through a fluke? In fact, let's take a second to look at real-life racing.

Carl Edwards took the lead with 1 lap to go in the 2009 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Speedway. His skills got him there--in-depth knowledge and experience with the track, his car, his team and the other races. He was poised to take the win going into turn 4, but the car behind him wanted to win too. That car tried to pass, accidentally got into Edwards and...
Edwards's number is 99, by the way. Not 66.
The second place car won, while Edwards took a trip against the upper sections of the safety fence. Thankfully, he escaped the crash with no injuries. 

It's obvious what he did next, right? Take every opportunity to complain about how he should have rightfully won the race if only that jerk behind him hadn't put fate into motion? Appeal to NASCAR to instill some sort of "fairness" rule that would give him the points for winning?

Nope. He got out of his car and ran across the finish line, Talladega Nights style.
He waited for the other cars to pass, of course.
Edwards was disappointed, naturally, but he had perspective. He knew that skill and talent can get you toward the front in the end, but it's by no means a guarantee of victory. He was denied this time, but there would be--and have been--other times when he would take the victory after the misfortune of others. That's just the way life works sometimes, and we're conditioned to put more emphasis on the times we've been slighted than the times we've unintentionally slighted others.

So when you're the one for whom the Blue Shell tolls, don't whine like you're the only one it's ever happened to. Just take them as part of the experience--especially when you know you'll be tossing them next race.


  1. Totally agree. YOu know that for every time you get nailed with a Blue Shell in a critical moment, there will be a time you nail someone else, or you'll be sitting in second and the guy from behind will "Shake and Bake" for you by nailing the guy ahead with a blue bomb of death.

    It's a game, nothing worth killing over. Kind of like football, right Kyle Williams?

    1. Why did I not actually use a Talladega Nights reference in this article? I have much to learn...

      (And sorry this system mangled your username. Yeesh.)