One of my favourite memories growing up is playing computer games with my older sister. We were a Nintendo family and the two games we played most were Streetfighter 2 and Super Mario Kart. I would love to say that the games were close, but, as Roald Dahl said in Boy, “When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty”. I must tell you, therefore, that these games were never competitive. I wouldn’t just beat my sister, I would be flawless, winning without getting hit in Streetfighter 2 and lapping her in Super Mario Kart. I was unbeatable. Except when she would unplug my controller. I was slightly more beatable then.
Of course I would call cheat and attempt to have the result nullified. I would appeal to her sense of fair play and shame: when it came to computer games, she had none. And fighting my sister was out of the question: she is several years older than me and would have kicked my ass. My pleas to a higher authority fell on deaf ears because, most of the time, my sister was the higher authority.
I was reminded of my childhood gaming memories today as I read that Vote Leave had been fined and reported to the police by the Electoral Commission for breaking the rules. I think I can use my experience from my formative years to prepare everyone for what happens next.
Appealing to the offending party will not work
The world is black and white when you’re young. You are taught about right and wrong. What you are not taught about is the grey. Things like “history is written by the winners”, “some people have no shame” and “the line between cheating and gamesmanship is flexible” are learned later. There will be appeals to the offending parties to do the right thing. This will not work. The best case scenario is that they make a joke and laugh it off and you chalk it up as a learning experience. The worst-case is that your appeal is weaponised and you are criticised for whining or not accepting the result.
Either way, you lose.
Saying that you will beat them even if they cheat will not work
My sister became very good at working out the exact time to disconnect the controller. If she did it too early, I would come back to win; too late and the result was already out of her reach. What she would do is wait until the critical part of the race/fight before doing it. This made it almost impossible to win. Put simply, a well-timed bit of skulduggery trumped all the skill. In that context, this tweet is interesting
By allegedly devoting their funds to targeted areas and people, the Vote Leave campaign recognised that they could overcome any skill from the opposition – not that there was much to be found – with well-timed cheating. As O’Brien points out, there seems to be no consequence because, as I found out, it’s almost impossible to get a result reversed.
Using the same dirty tricks will not work
The absolute worst thing that can happen is the aggrieved party trying to use the same tricks as the cheaters. Your outrage over their cheating will be used against you to discredit all of your previous victories. There was an understanding in my house that my sister was allowed to cheat and I wasn’t. Things that were norms for her were laws for me. I unplugged her controller once, and it led to a lifetime of whataboutism. I was forever tarnished by it, my singular act used as a cudgel to beat me. This was in spite of the fact that my sister, and, in this extended analogy, the Vote Leave campaign were, what’s the best way to describe it…
For the UK, there will be no justice and no rapprochement. A second referendum will not heal the rifts that were highlighted and exploited in the first one. It will do the opposite, and I do not want to live in an atmosphere that was so febrile, a politician lost their life. Video games don’t have real stakes: politicians should remember that the games that they play do.