Like most students returning to Montreal for the Fall semester, Matthew Hawkins, U3 Arts, is weathering out his 14-day quarantine in his apartment. During his spare time, he decided to hone his Mario-Kart skills.
“I’ve seen vlogs, read captions, and watched stories of people quarantining, and I knew I’d have to find something besides the beginning of class to keep me occupied,” Hawkins wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune. “During my six month stay at home I unearthed my Wii, and luckily, my favourite (and only remaining) game: Mario Kart Wii.”
Hawkins had borrowed a projector from McGill’s Information Technology Centre back in early March, which he was unable to return due to quarantine. When he returned to Montreal, he logged some mario kart game hours at home, projecting the game on his wall, and decided to work on his skills while stuck inside.
“During my layover in Toronto, I had an idea: A single person tournament with every character I had unlocked,” Hawkins said. “My friends asked me what that meant and I could not explain it, but I spent my first night in my apartment scheming. What I came up with the next morning was as follows: I put the names of all the playable characters into a bracket—including, after some debate, Mii (Outfit A)—and generated a bracket.”
Hawkins then laid out some rules. To remove any unpredictable variables, he played each race on time trial—meaning no non-player characters and no items except for the three mushrooms that players start with. It was an easy way to time each race accurately. He also raced each character on their Standard Kart to keep performances as consistent as possible. Then, he raced each pairing one character at a time and logged the winners in the bracket. The race was DS Delfino Square.
“To my dismay, one of the first eliminations was Mii (Outfit A), which felt personal,” Hawkins said. “As of [this message], I’m 72 per cent of the way through the tournament and very tired of Delfino Square. There are some interesting patterns, however. Unsurprisingly, my average time has been dropping, though it has plateaued.”
One of Hawkins’s main concerns has been not allowing his personal biases of each character to influence the races.
“For whatever reason I’ve always liked some [characters] and disliked others,” Hawkins said. “I know that there wasn’t any tangible difference between them besides Kart classes [….] I’ve come to realize that, above all else, what matters in these time trials is mushroom use. I can play the most technically perfect game, drift in all the right places, aim my jump on the drawbridge perfectly, but if I use the mushrooms in an inefficient place (sharp turns, for example) I’m less likely to win the round with that character, let alone break my all time record.
After 26 races, Hawkins has also pinpointed small factors that add up to a faster lap. Aiming perfectly off the drawbridge jump is crucial, as is getting as many mini-turbos from drifting on the narrow turn section near the beginning.
“As a general rule, I try not to bet against myself, but I have predictions about the outcome of the tournament,” Hawkins said. “Despite the fact that no one character should have an inherent advantage, every time I break my overall record I happen to be playing Peach or Diddy Kong.”
Whether this is a significant development or a subconscious bias emerging, Hawkins predicts that the final match will be between Peach and Diddy Kong. All the while, he will be trying to beat himself at every turn, shatter his records, and finally finish his wild quarantine project.