There are hardly any barriers in place for Nintendo's online gaming strategy. We’re not talking about players injecting reaction-improving drugs up their nostrils - rather, we’re talking about the trend of repeatedly exploiting glitches and gameplay imbalances to score an easy win over potentially more skilful opponents.
But like the steroid poser, the morality of this issue is a moodylicous shade of gray. After all, these people aren’t cheating per se, are they? They’re not breaking the game rules, or putting us off our game by Wii-mailing us pictures of sad kittens, or doing anything that we couldn’t hypothetically learn to do ourselves. If we want to compete, we’d just better learn to beat them at their own game, right? But what if we don’t want to? What if we find the repeated use of a single move to be so bitterly tedious and game-breaking that we don’t want to play any more? Well, perhaps that’s just tough nuts for us. Or is it?
Above: The courageous Captain Falcon says "no" to cheating
Nintendo has to face up to a bigger threat to their online strategy than either Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. That is, that the unique way Nintendo structures their games - the very thing that makes them so good, in fact - makes them a little unsuitable for online play. The likes of Mario Kart DS were never meant to be balanced paradigms of equality - they were designed to allow the players freedom of choice and diversity of gameplay tactics. In fact, if you break Mario Kart’s code into bite-sized chunks of techno-garble, you’ll find evidence that Nintendo was well aware of the possibility of "snaking" before the game went to market - a special bonus technique for uber-gamers with thumbs of steel.
Conversely, Nintendo’s policy of fluid game design has been a benefit rather than a drawback in local multiplayer sessions. Since everyone tends to know each other, these bouts are mostly self-policing, the rules and settings mutually agreed between the group.
However, the moment an element of competition is introduced, gentleman’s agreements and friendships clasp each other in a tender embrace and simultaneously topple out of some window. And no matter how well defined your particular set of rules are, struggling players will almost always attempt to save face by exploiting loopholes in the game.
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