Thomas Ahn, Columnist

Over quarantine, one of the ways I entertained myself was by watching streamers play battle royale games—all the rage in recent years. It seemed a bit pointless at first, but it was nerve-wracking and exciting to watch.  


One issue that comes up on occasion is the proliferation of cheaters in games without the necessary security measures. This can make skill almost irrelevant. I had trouble understanding the motivations behind cheating in a simulated scenario with no direct consequences in real life, as did the streamers I watched. But seeing that it wasn’t just rare and isolated cases, I began to ponder what conditions might have created these kinds of behavioral patterns. Perhaps it’s people who wouldn’t be able to taste the joy of victory on their current skill level. However, that was hard to grasp because the process of learning and improving is part of the joy I find in games. Maybe it was their way of taking out grudges on life for setting unrealistic standards for them to achieve – an attempt to take control back by breaking the game. But no matter how much time I spent imagining the mindsets of these digital players, I knew I could never truly know all the possible reasons. Besides, it was no fun to watch cheaters in action plowing down their opponents. Even if all cheating stopped somehow, there would be no way the playing field could be completely even when variance in everything from internet speeds, screen quality, and the device’s internal specifications always give slight edges to some, let alone the people who can’t play to win.


After watching cheaters constantly in action in games, I could hardly look back at the admissions scandals of recent years and be surprised. Of course, I find it very distasteful how blatantly some people with power and status try to cheat an economic system they have already benefited significantly from. But it brought about important questions. If we assume there are and will be people who use their influence to manipulate their educational path more subtly, what are we to do? Do our best to play fair and maintain some kind of integrity? Win at all costs? Something in the middle? Do we dismiss it as part of the game?


Amidst such events and dilemmas, I imagine many of you have been just as stressed as I have throughout high school and maybe even beforehand, wondering if our efforts will be enough to win a spot on the ride to uncertain prosperity. I also assume many of you question how much of your success will actually be yours, and where you would be without the support and investments of your parents. I would guess that many of you have stopped thinking about it completely at some point because such thoughts don’t help at all with the barrage of other stress factors. 


High school has been a time in which I was constantly focused on finding my place among others. But I tried not to lose sight of the fact that wherever I stand, we’re all together anyway. We all will have to live in the same world and help each other navigate our confusing and uncertain shared future. Even though we’re just players of the game right now, I hope you remember that we will be the designers someday. Regardless of our destination college, it will be our collective responsibility to reconsider and challenge the fundamentally problematic aspects of the systems that bring us to where we are. So stress less about the rapidly approaching end to your high school career and redistribute it for later! Remember, your grades and scores are a pretty poor measure of your value and rather a reflection of some adults’ and dead peoples’ values. It’s just a game – a pretty significant one, of course – but there are more important things to be done when our time comes.


Yours truly,

Thomas Ahn

College Bored

Musket III 2021