via AS

Mario Kart is a game that has caused friendships to end, families to split, and couples to break up, at least for what the race or the tournament takes.

It is a very competitive game that takes the worst out of us, but it is also one of the most entertaining and fun video games ever made. We just can’t stop playing it. Besides that, Mario Kart could have a key to fight world poverty. How does that work?


The Secret To Keep Us Hooked

via Gamer Focus

The “rubber banding effect” is basically what keeps us hooked to the game even if we are losing poorly. This effect is what lies under the fact that the game gives better boosts and items to the players at the bottom while it gives just the basic powerups to the ones at the top.

It is like the game is telling you “since you are already leading, you should only need your skills to keep up there”. From a psychological perspective, the rubber banding effect keeps the less skilled players interested in the game, with the idea that they can give the proper help to finally win.

According to Andrew Bell, an assistant professor of earth and environment at Boston University (and a Mario Kart enthusiast), this feature of the game could give us clues to find a way to fight poverty in the world. Bell focuses his research on farming across the world, and what he has found is that farming in different parts of the world (like Africa, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malawi, or Pakistan) is a very rough and ungrateful profession. The amount of effort that farmers put around the world is rarely rewarded properly.

What Bell proposes is, like it happens in Mario Kart, to give the farmers of poor countries some aid, like they were the losing players in a Mario Kart race. Direct assistance to this demographic would improve the economy around the world, Bell says, because it would help them produce more food and products and it would give a boost to sustainability and environmentally friendly farming practices.


Not As Easy As A Video Game

via Vida Extra

Truth is that to code this rubber banding effect into a video game is way easier than implementing it in real life. Resources that you will give to the poor have to come from somewhere, you have to make sure that those funds go to the right place, governments get involved, bureaucracy plays its part.

It is a nice model, as Bells put it, and one from which we could elaborate something in the future. But right now, we would have to settle with playing Mario Kart with our friends and family.