Mario Kart’s Rubber-Banding is Like a Soviet Five-Year Plan

Once again, Nintendo and its creations eerily mirror the Soviet Union in a number of ways, this time with Mario Kart.

Mario Kart is a game designed for the whole family, pitting popular characters from the Mario and greater Nintendo universe against each other in a go-kart race to the finish line with speed boosts, sky-soaring jumps, and infuriating special abilities.

One of the ways that Nintendo have made the Mario Kart franchise universally accessible is through a number of balancing mechanics that keep every player continually challenged in a fun way and makes sure that, even if you’re lagging behind, you’re afforded opportunities that keep the race equally competitive. And I can’t help but see parallels between these mechanics and a Soviet five-year plan, so let’s look into this some more.

 

Rubber-Banding

When playing Mario Kart with AI, a patented mechanic is implemented: rubber-banding. Introduced in Mario Kart 64, the game will either give CPU racers who lag too far behind you an abnormal speed boost as an opportunity to catch up with you, or will hinder the performance of your vehicle for the same effect. While this may initially seem unfairly-punishing to players who put the extra work in to make it to first place, in reality it keeps the experience consistently challenging, and makes sure you’re always on your toes.

This mirrors the Soviet Union’s five-year plans, wherein every facet of economic development including agriculture, transportation, health and education, was carefully monitored and controlled to maintain an equal level of growth.

 

The Blue Shell

The Blue Shell is perhaps the most infamous of Mario Kart’s item roster, introduced in the 1996/97 release Mario Kart 64. It’s similar in function to the Red Shell, firing off and homing in on the player ahead of them to stall them for a few seconds and giving you an advantage. Only, the Blue Shell specifically targets the player in first place. It, and other powerful items, become more likely pick-ups the further you are from first place, as a means of giving players performing more poorly a chance to get back into the fray.

This aspect of Mario Kart also ties into the five-year plan system. During each five-year period, while every aspect of the economy was maintained at roughly the same level, special focus would be given to a specific industry throughout the plan in order to bolster it depending on the needs of the state.

 

Intention vs. Reception

Mario Kart’s balancing in these two aspects were always intended to make races an even playing field regardless of skill, experience and accessibility, because at the end of the day, Nintendo wanted to make something that anyone can enjoy: that sells. But, varying from iteration to iteration of the franchise, it’s always been ragged on by some who feel that it makes the game boring, and that it doesn’t reward players who put a lot of effort into being really good at beating their counterparts.

Similarly, many Capitalist thinkers who praise the free market as a bastion of diversity in options and that rewards the hard worker over what they’d call the “freeloader,” don’t understand that unregulated economy breeds systematic inequality, and harms the little guy who might not have the resources or opportunities afforded to those better-off, and thus will suffer under such a system.

 

What do you all think? I suspect, especially given Nintendo’s track record of being comparable to the Soviet Union, that this is pretty conclusive evidence of the Soviet Union inspiring a lot of what the Japanese company did and how they behaved, especially back in the day.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

Retrospective: Red Faction Guerrilla’s Positive Portrayal of Violent Revolution

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a mediocre game with above-average destructible environment physics and a surprisingly positive portrayal of the more morally-grey aspects of a violent revolution.

I have a complicated relationship with Volition’s 2009 third-person shooter, Red Faction: Guerrilla. It’s a definitively mediocre game about a people’s revolution on a colonized Mars that’s disappointing in its execution, in a setting with so much potential that wasn’t explored. The destructible environment system made possible with Geomod 2.0 is quite spectacular, and despite its limited scope compared to the first iteration of the engine, it goes a long way to drag its score slightly above a 5 out of 10.

Something that really interested me when recently replaying the game is Red Faction‘s portrayal of the more morally-grey aspects of violent revolutions.

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There are countless horrific acts committed in periods of revolt, and whether they can be justified as necessary is subjective and dependent on context. But it’s not until recent years that we’ve really seen a mainstream acknowledgement of these acts that recognizes their necessity. Go back a decade, and even films like the 2005 adaptation of V for Vendetta trimmed out a lot of the ethical ambiguity present in the original graphic novel. These portrayals were glorified, and often if they weren’t, then they were condemned.

This makes Red Faction: Guerrilla’s depictions of these darker revolutionary elements quite significant: the game was released eight years ago now, when video games as a medium didn’t explore this concept to any great length. Red Faction by no means contains missions that are outright horrific, but a lot of what you carry out in the shoes of Alec Mason would often be considered acts of terrorism if translated into the real world.

Demolishing bridges, bombing town halls, aiding in the torture of enemy generals; these are all duties you must perform to further the cause of the Red Faction, and are all commonly-accepted acts of terror by major world powers, an aspect also reflected in anti-Red Faction news broadcasts heard throughout the game. But Red Faction: Guerrilla depicts these acts as ultimately necessary in the quest for liberation.

And quite rightly: countless times in world history, we’ve seen violent and disruptive actions carried out by revolutionary groups as a means of furthering their goals, and regardless of the public perceptions of these groups at the times of their operation, it’s generally accepted in an historical context that, often, they were ultimately successful in their intent: militant groups like Umkhonto we Sizwe, a militant anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela, who bombed South African infrastructure as a means of targeting the government, and the Cuban Revolutionaries, who engaged in guerrilla warfare to bring down the brutal regime of dictator Fulgenico Batista.

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In an age where many non-peaceful, disruptive movements are met with cries and insistences that violence should never be an option and that nothing will be achieved by employing such techniques, it’s important for people to be reminded that sometimes, even as a last resort, acts of violence have brought about massive social change. And a great way to remind us all of that is through such portrayals in the media we consume.

Red Faction: Guerrilla presenting this perspective at the time that it did was a surprisingly bold move for such an otherwise average game. And it’s part of why I have such a fond appreciation for it: that and its soviet propaganda-inspired UI design and the fact that I can destroy an entire tower block with nothing but a bloody hammer.

Violence can be devastating, and I’m not voicing apologism for all brutally violent organisations, nor am I condoning or encouraging crimes like murder. I do feel, however, that it’s important to recognise that in certain contexts, and in specific situations, many acts of violence have formed the basis of a lot of society’s progressions, and will go on to do so, and it’s important to know that sometimes, it might be the only effective option.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

A Slight Shift in Focus

Hello, comrades! For those of you that aren’t aware, I’ve recently taken over as Editor-in-Chief of Indie Haven, a site I’ve been writing at for over a year now. This means that a large focus of my time has been getting the site reorganised. With this, I’ve been thinking a lot about the content I produce there, and the content I produce here.

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The main content of jaffameister.com revolves around mashing Communism into various video games until I can write about how it makes sense. I also, however, occasionally publish news, release round-ups, and previews. With the plans I have over at Indie Haven, this is content I also look to host there.

As such, I’ve decided to keep jaffameister.com as a site for my Commie-themed features, and all news, previews, and round-ups will appear on Indie Haven. This content will be better suited over there, and it’s also content that never goes down as well as my Communist features here, so it’s a decision I feel shouldn’t affect too many people at all.

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If you’re a fan of the work I put out here, thanks for sticking with me while I figure everything out over at Indie Haven. Expect some new features here, and if you go over to Indie Haven, then I’ll be posting regular content along with my fantastic team!

Siegecraft Commander Available Today on Current Gen Platforms

Hello, Comrades! Siegecraft Commander, an action strategy hybrid developed by Blowfish Studios, released today on Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and the HTC Vive.

In the single-player campaign, you assume the role of either a band of defence-focused knights and a tribe of offence-oriented Lizardmen, constructing an interconnected web of bases, with outposts becoming ruined and dilapidated if they are severed from the chain that links them to the home base. The real-time combat aspect of Siegecraft Commander involves taking control of a base to launch catapult ammunition at enemy bases.

Speaking of catapults, one of the most intriguing features of Siegecraft Commander is the base-building mechanic, in which you CATAPULT A BASE FROM ONE OF YOUR CURRENT BASES IN ORDER TO BUILD THE BASE. If that’s not crazy awesome, then I don’t know what is. These bases then connect through links reminiscent of the Great Wall of China.

The game boasts 28 different structures to build, eight levels in both sides of it’s single-player campaign, and 2-4 player cross-play multiplayer, a feature not often seen in smaller indie titles. Benjamin Lee, CEO of Blowfish Studios, said, “”From support for different playstyles, cross-play, and traditional monitor or VR setups, Siegecraft Commander is an open invitation for anyone who loves strategy to craft a flawless battle plan, steady their aim, and take out their rivals.”

The game will also support birds-eye view VR, with optional motion controls for aiming and firing catapults; this is where a word of warning comes in. As of today, the game supports HTC Vive VR, and a patch for Playstation VR will be coming in the near future. What’s interesting to note is that Oculus Rift (as well as Nvidia Shield) support will be available as a standalone version of the game in the indeterminate future. Whether this will involve a second payment or if the standalone will be free for those who have already purchased the game is unclear, so keep this in mind, comrades.

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I’m definitely going to be pressing for a review copy of the game to give you all my thoughts, and demonstrate to the world the immense power of the GLORIOUS COMMUNIST CATAPULT WEB, so stay tuned! The game is also currently 30% off until 23rd January if you like what you see and want to pick it up cheap.

Steam Link || RRP: $19.99/£14.99/€19.99

Hello Neighbor Launches Alpha 2, Releases Two New Trailers

Hello Neighbor, a stealth-horror game in which you infiltrate your neighbor’s house to find out what he’s hiding in the basement, has released it’s Alpha 2 build, along with two new trailers showcasing a glimpse of the story and a new way of distracting your antagonist.

The new build went live on 22nd November, with the story trailer showing us sections of the introduction to the game, playable in this latest Alpha update, wherein the player moves into a new house, and experiences what appears to be a home invasion from the infamous Neighbor character. This introduction shows off the ‘tutorial house,’ an area that allows the player to get to grips with basic mechanics, like removing the nails from boarded-up doors and picking up/moving objects.

Also revealed is a new mechanic that can be utilized in countering the Neighbor’s pursuit; fireworks. Setting off these fireworks disorients the Neighbor and allows the player to escape and find new locations to hide.

The new update features more than just more story and new distractions. There have been graphics updates that include depth of field, and a big improvement to the AI of the Neighbor, such as the registering of scenery changes and a tweaked field of view that makes sneaking easier. A full list of updates can be found in this blog post on TinyBuild’s website.

Alpha 2 is a larger step towards the final game compared to it’s predecessors. As quoted in a press release from TinyBuild: “Everything you’ve seen before regarding Hello Neighbor is throw-away, used for testing & evaluating the direction for the full game. Today’s Alpha 2 is a glimpse into what the final game looks, feels, sounds & plays like.”

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I’ve yet to dip in to Hello Neighbor, but now seems like the perfect opportunity to do so as the game starts becoming a better reflection of what the full release will be like. I’ll be sure to share my impressions in the near-future.

 

Welcome to Jaffameister.com!

Hi everyone! I’m George, a non-binary, filthy SJW games journalist. My career began in January of this year, when I wrote a guest feature for Laura Kate Dale about butts and how they’re the exception to the uncanny valley phenomenon in video games. I soon went on to become a contributor at Indie Haven, where I made someone cry by writing about Undertale, and talked to Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell about the diversity present in KatataK. And now, I’m the proud owner of jaffameister.com!


What should you expect from the site? Well, I’ll be producing a variety of content, ranging from long-form features to industry leaks. I’ll be posting pieces every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, of varying different flavours, with an indie releases round-up every Sunday, summarizing what exciting indie titles will be released in the proceeding week.

I’ll be covering press events, conventions, and showcases whenever I’m able to attend them, and unique, situational content will often crop up if and when it becomes relevant. Basically, expect a big mish-mash of everything that’s happening in the world of video games.


Of course, the existence of this website, the contributions that I make at other publications, and the various freelance pieces that I produce are all there in the hopes that I will one day make this into a viable career. As such, I’ve also launched a Patreon! So, if you happen to particularly enjoy my content, my personality, or my existence as a human being, a dollar here or there would mean the world to me, and will also aid in improving the variety and the quality of the content that I’m able to provide!

I’ve been nervous and excited about the launch of jaffameister.com, and it’s been a long time in the making. So, I look forward to bringing you all on this journey with me, and I hope you all enjoy the ride!