Don’t Starve Together is a game where players are tasked to not starve, to survive against the monsters and weather conditions, with themselves and their companions.
Playing this game, first I must learn how to not starve on my own. I do this with my own time, figuring out what the rules of the game are, internalizing them, figuring out what it is I need to do, what buttons I need to press, and what it is I am good at and would be able to contribute to a group. Then after that, maybe I can play with others and come together so we can thrive, beat the giant bosses, build a settlement, practice job specializations, research new technologies, or impose artificial challenges on ourselves to test our limits. These kind of survival games are at their core very simple, but in their practice can represent a more complicated society. Within an electronic game, failure is more tenable. But the game called life is played with more critical stakes.
In general, I shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you are feeding yourself. I think people are their own keepers, and it’s with myself first I entrust my own survival. There may be cases where groups of people come together to contribute to their group’s survival, such as a family taking care of a newborn child. But this is agreed upon or understood normally at the onset of the group.
I don’t part ways with friends, worrying whether or not they will feed themselves. Even if I had the most benevolent (or even selfish) reasons to worry, I would soon become overwhelmed with worry about you and Wilson and Wigfrid and Willow not starving. I feel that I am giving you the most respect when by default I recognize that you are capable of at least what I am capable of, that you can take care of yourself as I can take care of myself. There may be cases where this default is not actuality, and this is where I get a little confused.
I do admit that there may be certain people who require more concern for than others, where my hands-off kind of attitude may be more detrimental than empowering. But I have an inkling feeling that there are other ways I can show my concern for those in genuine starvation besides trying to hand-spoon them some nutrition. I should be able to do better, right?
It’s when faced with this kind of question that my social morality gets tested. What action is it that I am proposing and suggesting being put into practice? Am I just making up a complicated argument so I don’t actually have to do anything?
When I say that individuals should watch out for themselves, what about those individuals who end up not being able to? Does it matter if those individuals had the opportunity and failed, or if they never had the opportunity at all?
I am not quite happy with the sentiment that we should all just drop everything and take care of those who need taking care of. But I am also not quite happy with the extreme opposite, a free-for-all survival of the fittest. I want to see each of us all striving to succeed on our own, but this is always at a risk of failure. What happens to those that do fail? What does my social morality say happens next? Do we live in a society to prevent at all costs against the results of failure, even so much as removing the exposure to failure (and exposure to challenges to overcome, learn, and grow)? It feels like there should be some kind of mechanism to help those that tried their best but still failed. Should there also be a mechanism to save those that did not even try at all?
I can try to teach others skills to help watch out for themselves. But not everyone is going to read this. Not everyone is going to find this helpful. Not everyone is going to succeed. Someday, maybe I too will fail. What happens to us then?
I am still thinking about this. I am still figuring out what action it is that I will take when faced with someone asking for money, for food, for shelter. I can say that I will not be able to help everyone I meet, but what it is that I am doing to help?
But even faced with this confusion, I still weigh pretty heavily the idea of self-reliance. I don’t see a society being able to succeed without first each individual contributing to their own survival, their own success, their own victory, their own winning.
It’s with this confusion in mind that I write. I write of how I think we could all be better winners on our own. I write of how we should all be better winners on our own, first. It’s after we all learn how to win on our own, that maybe we can win more together, and win more to help those that lost. Don’t ask me to play for you, at least not first without playing for yourself. If you tried, and you failed, well… I’m still thinking about how to best respond to that one. But in the meantime, as I collect my thoughts, I will write.