"Sometimes" Is Hard

Okay, so there's "good cheating" (which can help you learn) and there's "bad cheating" (which keeps you from learning), but how can you tell the difference? How do you know when you're cheating too much, or if there even is such a thing? For me, "moderation" usually means "doing just a little bit less than the other guy." It's hard to know where to stop, but it's unfortunately easy to spot when you've already gone too far.

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I recently crossed this line while playing Minecraft. I love sandbox games, I love exploration, I love building - it was a perfect fit. It was a uniquely rewarding challenge digging into "my world" for resources and riches, fending off evil critters, and using the spoils to build whatever I wanted.

And then I discovered the many player-made add-ons. Suddenly, I could create a 3D map of my world, including its caves and resources. Now, finding those treasures was a lot easier. But then there were the inventory editors, and I found I could just create what I wanted from thin air.

Then I found a mod that would let me fly. Now it was easier to get to those snowy peaks, or out of those spooky caverns... only now there was no reason to dig those caverns, and no particular hurry to reach those peaks. The next mountain was full of unnecessary work, rather than brimming with potential. The mining was what had spurred the exploration and sense of wonder, and I'd set my pickaxe aside. Now that I'd sampled this god-like power, could I really go back to digging with those ancient tools, earning by effort what I could simply conjure with ease?

As it turns out, yes, I could. A couple weeks off, and I put the cheats away and went back to digging with friends. Thankfully, we're never quite beyond redemption.

I did learn the very valuable lesson that it's a lot harder to spot "the line" when you're walking it. As St. Augustine once said, "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." I think he was probably right, but I don't know if I'll ever kick the habit completely. There are those rare moments when a slight bending of the rules can give us just enough room to grow, to enjoy... or to fall. Hopefully time and experience will make it easier to find the balance, but I'm pretty sure I'll always be at least a little bit of a cheater.

Brian Campbell is a musician and teacher in NC. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time. To date, he is 30% less awful at golf. Sometimes he even keeps score.

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