Deliberately Repeating Your Mistakes

Like many I use a computer to create documents and play games: and like many I know the annoyance of losing progress because I forgot to save often enough. However, yesterday I came face to face with a benefit of not saving and the ethical dilemma that lies behind it.

I received a copy of XCOM: Enemy Unknown for Christmas and, having finished the game I started before Christmas, installed it recently. For the unfamiliar, the basic premise of the game is that you command a secret organisation created to defend Earth from invading aliens. There are a number of known issues with running the game on systems that are not at the peak of the specifications so, as recommended, I left auto-saves disabled. Yesterday I discovered the hiding place of last alien in a city. Rather than wait a short while to move up an entire squad I rushed the closest soldier into a flanking position to gain a quick victory. I did not take time to check his equipment. When I discovered his rifle was empty I could have ordered him to retreat; I could have ordered him to use his pistol; instead I ordered him to stay in the open and reload. I realised the error immediately after I gave the order and, as expected, watched the alien gun him down. Then the game froze and I was forced to close it and restart.

My last save was before the start for the last alien. So my dilemma was whether it would be cheating not to risk his life in the same way the second time. My first thought was that, as I would not reload the save to prevent the mistake I should treat this in the same way. However, while still pondering, I remembered my great grandfather’s attitude to teaching my mother draughts: he always played to his full ability, otherwise he felt the outcome was meaningless for her. In the end I decided that the fairest way was to play using the basic tactics I had used up until then rather than deliberately play below my ability out of a feeling that I did not deserve to benefit from a computer error in my favour.

Do you feel guilty if chance gives you an advantage? Are there times when you play less well than you can?

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