What if everyone behaved the same way with games?

Immanuel Kant was a freaking pimp. He’s one of my favorite philosophers because the guy was so stupidly smart and logical, his writing can actually make you smarter just by reading it. It's difficult to not come across as pretentious when bringing philosophy into gaming, but the purpose of this feature is to have fun with a mental exercize, not to get into some pseudo-sophisticated pontificating. The fun here will be taking the brilliance of Kant's logic, applying it to videogames, and running with it to see what might happen. I mean, just look at the guy, don't you want to know what he's thinking?

Above: Piiiiiimp 

One of my idle hobbies is to apply Kant’s categorical imperative to things in everyday life, just for the fun of it. Kant, being the pimp that he was, figured out a method for determining the ethical nature of an action purely through logic. He thought that worrying about whether God said something was right or wrong, or whether it caused the least pain to the least number of people was a fuzzy, imprecise way of measuring ethics.

The categorical imperative asks you to consider an action you’re about to take, and then extend it to a universal maxim. Here’s my favorite example: Let’s say you’re considering stealing something. In order for it to be “okay” to steal something, you’d have to turn it into this maxim: “Stealing is permissible.” Notice that there are no circumstantial parameters. Basing it on circumstances like how much the thing is worth or who you're stealing from is fuzzy and subjective. To Kant, that's not good enough. Since everyone is equal, you have to think of it like this: if it’s okay for you to steal this thing, it must be okay for everyone to steal anything at anytime. So what happens if you follow that to the logical conclusion? If it’s permissible for anyone to steal whenever they feel like it, the actual concept of property becomes meaningless (how can you own something if anyone can take it away from you?). And if property is meaningless, then you can’t really steal it, can you? The concept of stealing implies the concept of ownership. The ethical proposition logically contradicts itself, and so therefore stealing is wrong.

Okay, so all of that is pretty tricky to digest all at once, and I don’t blame you if you say, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t quite make sense to me.” Part of the problem is that I’m not as pimp as Immanuel Kant, and not nearly as smart, so I’m not the best at explaining it. If you want a really strong explanation, just go here. Got it? Alrighty then, let’s have some fun with Kantian ethics and videogames!

What we’re going to do here is look at some behaviors related to games that have been controversial in discussions. I guarantee you feel strongly about at least some of these. The fun part will be to imagine what happens if we apply the categorical imperative (somewhat imperfectly) to videogame behaviors. So what would happen if a certain behavior was permissible? That everyone decided to do the same thing?

What if…

...everyone cheated?

Cheaters must think it's not a big deal that they do it. They're just having a bit of fun, so what's all the fuss? If we apply the categorical imperative to their actions, it would mean that it's okay for everybody to cheat, all the time. Let's imagine that world. The most common form of cheating is to download and use hacks created by actual hackers (most cheaters don't know how to program hacks; they just purchase or download them for free). Since videogames are essentially coded sets of rules, and hacks rewrite those rules, we'd have a world where nobody is actually playing the games that developers designed. They'd be playing entirely different sets of rules, determined by the hackers. Since there are different types of hacks available, amongst the cheaters there would still be people playing different rule sets within a single game. Would that mean that some cheaters would accuse others of using "unfair" cheats? Somehow I doubt they would see the irony in this.

Above: "My cheating is totally ruining your game, even though our controllers are plugged into our buttholes"

I'd also bet that today's cheaters would say, "That would be great! Then us hackers would be game developers! We'd be writing the rules!" In a way, this would be true. Yet there would be further consequences of this. What would developers do, knowing that the rules they write into games would just get rewritten by everybody? Videogames, as collections of rules written and sold by developers, would essentially become meaningless. If everyone cheated, games would potentially stop being made altogether, because what's the point? It would be like trying to make a movie or write a book when you know the audience is just going to rewrite it as they see fit.


  • hulksmash - September 15, 2010 11:55 p.m.

    if the world followed these ideas it would either be really peaceful or completely chaotic
  • alexkirk - August 19, 2010 12:10 a.m.

    I have a way to solve the what if everyone pirated games or bought only used games? DONT CHARGE 60$ FOR GAMES. 30$ is way more than enough
  • wladodragovic - August 16, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    I think this is the most enjoyable article I've seen on this site, and I actually enjoy all of 'em! Nice work. Keep it up.
  • ReconChicken - August 16, 2010 6:09 a.m.

    Loved this article, it made me think...alot!:P Love GR for these articles! Keep it up :)
  • rjjones - August 16, 2010 5:41 a.m.

    @crumbdunky: I think you just incriminated yourself for software piracy...
  • elpurplemonkey - August 16, 2010 4:10 a.m.

    Good article, sort of mental masturbation, but that's enjoyable sometimes.
  • GamesRadarJuniorWildlifeEditor - August 16, 2010 3:24 a.m.

    More articles like this. I love GR's boobs n babes features, but it is nice to have some higher level of intellectual discourse as well.
  • Zeb364 - August 15, 2010 10:24 p.m.

    First off, I love the caption for the photo used in the Cheating section. The controllers are clearly inserted into their anuses. Second, you nailed the campers part. I actually brought that up to a camper online about a year ago just based on my own conclusion and his response was "Yea, but not everyone camps so it works great!" To which I replied "yea, cause we're not all cheap." Which brings me to the play-to-win section. I think that's a misnamed phenomenon. I play-to-win because everytime I enter a game I use every ounce of skill in my possesion to win. That doesn't mean I don't want to have fun too, I do both (and their not mutually exclusive, but that's a story for another time). Just because I am actively trying o win though doesn't mean I resort to "cheap" tactics. Now before I proceed, let me clarify, A "cheap" tactic isn't a tactic that guarantees a win, it's one that guarantees a win regardless of skill (or lack thereof). Noobtubing (or the use of the grenade launcher for that matter) is cheap as any idiot can blow up half the map with multiple grenades. The shotgun in Gears 2 or the Assassin class in Monday Night Combat are examples of play-to-win that arn't cheap as getting that close alive takes skill. Zerg rushing also takes at least some skill in managing troops and quick building. I say this as someone who is overwhelmed by the idea of Starcraft II strategies and has therefore avoided the game. When I hear someone explain the makings of a Rush, I'm lost. I understand the result, just not how you get there. The reason I am opposed to using "cheap" tactics such as the Noobtube is a matter of self-respect, using a tactic that any idiot could pull off just to win robs the win of any value for me (I tried the Noobtube for a few matches once but it just left a bad taste in my mouth). By the end of the game I'm like, "I'm at the top of the scoreboard...but who cares?" Finallly, in regards the Rambo idea, that's what Halo/MW2/Gears 2 Team Deathmatch has become. Occasionally you'll run into a pair of friends working together, watching each other's backs, and you find yourself getting mad at them for constantly beating you through teamwork. Which, if your not a complete idiot, is followed by a mixture of laughter and schame because you realize the irony at being mad about teamwork in a team game. Objective based games on the otherhand (CTF, Territories, etc.) tend to lend themselves more to real world teamwork as it actually makes a significant difference on the scoreboard there.
  • jameshalsey - August 15, 2010 9:17 p.m.

    Wonderful article, I hope for more.
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 15, 2010 8:59 a.m.

    Great article, thoroughly enjoyed that.
  • Tymiegie - August 15, 2010 4:15 a.m.

    Top shelf article!!!
  • tuomotaivainen - August 15, 2010 1:34 a.m.

    The lovely thing about philosophy in general is that, in no way, are these absolute truths. Of course feel free to correct me if I'm wrong (with proof)
  • LKabongUno - August 14, 2010 7:12 p.m.

    I enjoy reading Kant, but there are clear flaws to his model of philosophy. The categorical imperative can be shown to be infeasible and even contradictory through simple though experiments. Example: according to the categorical imperative, you should not lie, because if everyone lied civilization would crumble. You should also not act to hurt people, because once again, if everyone did this, civilization would crumble. So what happens if insane killer X comes to you and asks you where your friend is so they can kill them. Do you tell the truth and condemn your friend to death, or lie and prevent the killer from achieving his honest goal. Either way you break the categorical imperative, though common experience tells us that the second option is the most preferable. There is such a thing as overthinking the obvious.
  • SkyNet - August 14, 2010 6:18 a.m.

    The problem with his philosophy is that things are rarely so black and white. Take the first example stealing. Is it wrong for a man to steal food if he is starving? How about stealing secrets for ones government? Or stealing an object from a corrupt bureaucrat that got it legally by using loopholes in the law. Killing is another not so black and white subject. Is killing inherently wrong? What if you're defending yourself or others. What if killing one person means saving millions? Like killing Osama for instance. The world would be a far better place without a man such as that. There are degrees of right and wrong, good and evil not just one or the other. I personally lean more towards the machine like philosophy of Utilitarianism. Optimal efficiency, greater good and all that.
  • Limbo - August 14, 2010 2:30 a.m.

    This was an amazing read. I really appreciate these philosophical articles on here. This site has something to please everyone, and that's why it's the best. If everyone read this in a serious attempt to understand it, I think the world would be a better place because people would become more aware of what they are really doing.
  • xopods - August 14, 2010 1:54 a.m.

    The problem with Kantian logic, at least the way you're applying it, is that it can be used to prove almost anything immoral. What would happen if everyone were a game developer? We'd all die, because there would be no farmers and no doctors. Therefore, making games for a living is evil.
  • TURbo - August 14, 2010 12:10 a.m.

    Enough with the autonomous lawmakers. Consequences do matter.
  • flywhip - August 13, 2010 10:30 p.m.

    As a second year Philosophy BA, that was an awesome read! And out of all places, I get a random cool Philosophy article on a game site... What's next, the metaphysics of videogames? Cheers.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - August 13, 2010 10:14 p.m.

    For the tiers in fighting games, I did mention the exception where sometimes low-tier characters have done well in tournaments. I don't mean to imply that people who play to win would never-ever touch low tier characters, because if you're playing to win, it's smart to have some tricks up your sleeve, like doing the unexpected. And yes, matchups are a big part of that. Even so, as general variety goes, if you watched 1000 games of pros versus 1000 games of average gamers, I'd bet you'd see much less variety of characters amongst the pros. As for the buying of used games, think of it going back to stealing - we're still taking it to the logical extreme. "It's permissible to buy used games" is the same (I think) as saying "It's permissible to steal" in that, sure nobody does either of these things all the time, but to Kant, the logic is in what happens if they did. I did say, though, that I'd be applying the categorical imperative imperfectly - it's really hard to do it properly. In the case of used games, it's probably imperfect, but again as a mental exercize it's interesting to think about.
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - August 13, 2010 8:37 p.m.

    i hate racists on xbox live, i just want to play :(

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