Life Lessons from Battle Royale

I’ve played some multiplayer games in my lifetime, and there are lessons of fairness to be learnt. In these games—whether PUBG or World of Warcraft, there are competitive and cooperative elements. Some have in-game economies and others ex-game versions. The common theme is acceptance of the concept that one cannot simply purchase a win or even a winning character. The game is won with a combination of skill and luck—good old-fashioned RNG. Except at the margin, wealth is insignificant, and there is little dynastic benefit, which is to say one can’t inherit a better toon bequeathed by some other.

 “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

In gaming, we recognise this to be unfair. Taking more classic games as examples, we would not find it acceptable for one player to start a chess game with additional pieces or to start a Monopoly game with hotels already in place.

In real life, many* don’t feel that this inbuilt advantage is somehow unfair. In fact, it’s desirable. Let alone that most—which is to say 90-plus-odd-percent of them—will never be in a position to give or receive this advantage. This is where Rawlsian logic comes into play. Under the veil of ignorance, the vast majority of humans would not choose this system.

Unfortunately, whilst people may not live under a veil of ignorance—at least not in the manner presumed by the thought experiment—, they also under a veil of delusion, living as if by the misattributed John Steinbeck quote that people somehow view themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

To be sure, as Michael Walzer noted, there are many places where market-based economics are appropriate, but it would be good to remember that there are many places where it’s not.


* By many, I mean to call out Libertarians, who have no issue with persisting wealth across generations. They apparently have a belief that (1) wealth can be earned, and one earned, (2) it can be carried forward into perpetuity—even if the subsequent wealth holder only acquires it through association, as with inheritance.

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