The Kobayashi Maru Test- what's the point...

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SSgt Burton

Sr Member
If everyone knows it is only a simulation?

So from a viewer’s perspective when ST:II opens with the Kobayashi Maru test, “we” don’t know it is a simulation. Everyone is dying and it looks like the ship is lost...

Until Kirk orders the viewscreen to open up and the lights to be turned back on.


So the point of the test is for a command track officer to experience extreme stress and even “death” and (I suppose) to see if they keep doing their job or have a mental breakdown.

But how is this supposed to be accomplished?

It would make sense if the Cadets were on the Enterprise and were told that they were underway on a training mission, only to encounter the distress call and the attacking Klingons (when in reality the ship never left Spacedock)...

But they aren’t even on the Enterprise! They are in a simulator room at Starfleet Academy!

After Saavik's Kobayashi test, Kirk exits the simulator to run into Spock in the hallway. After a brief conversation, Spock says he is headed to the Enterprise (proving the simulator is on Earth and doesn’t involve the Enterprise herself at all).

So how are you supposed to feel fear, if you know you are in a simulator room at the Academy and it isn’t an actual mission?

I don’t think they “blindfolded” the Cadets and told them they were being transported to the Enterprise (and snuck them into the simulator). ;)

Not to mention the test itself has been around for decades (in the exact same form) gaining the reputation of the "no-win scenario." Wouldn't word get around the Academy?

I mean if you want to play an April Fool's joke on someone (which on a certain level the Kobayashi Maru test is), you don't let on that "it's not real" beforehand. ;)


Just would like to hear other's take on this.



Kevin
 

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superDrool

Sr Member
Point well made, as I see it you are correct and maybe they do or don't realize that it's a simulation. But either way the test is on command character alone, not how real it feels.
 

Vermithrax 4

Well-Known Member
It's a rather ham-handed attempt at a "test of character" simulation and frankly, I think they've made WAY too much over it throughout Trek since it showed up in TWOK so I'm just plain sick of hearing about it. Nor did I ever buy the idea that it was supposed to indicate how a trainee faces "death", but moreover how they faced a major "failure" on their part, something that some people with large command egos have trouble coming to terms with. But I think it has to be remembered that there are very similar simulations used in the US & British submarine services to train command candidates and they can get VERY high-pressure for the trainees, even though they're fully aware that they're not actually at sea. The realistic feel of the simulator and the knowledge that they're under observation for their performance is a lot of pressure to be under.
 

SmilingOtter

Master Member
The realistic feel of the simulator and the knowledge that they're under observation for their performance is a lot of pressure to be under.
I think that's probably it right there.

IMO Scotty's performance (in the novel Kobayashi Maru) was a better example of cheating than Kirk's, though not quite as stylish (either in Trek XI or the novel.)
 

micdavis

Master Member
It was a way to kill Spock in the first 10 minutes to go with the rumors he was going to die. Contrived as the day is long.
 

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superDrool

Sr Member
It's a rather ham-handed attempt at a "test of character" simulation and frankly, I think they've made WAY too much over it throughout Trek since it showed up in TWOK so I'm just plain sick of hearing about it. Nor did I ever buy the idea that it was supposed to indicate how a trainee faces "death", but moreover how they faced a major "failure" on their part, something that some people with large command egos have trouble coming to terms with. But I think it has to be remembered that there are very similar simulations used in the US & British submarine services to train command candidates and they can get VERY high-pressure for the trainees, even though they're fully aware that they're not actually at sea. The realistic feel of the simulator and the knowledge that they're under observation for their performance is a lot of pressure to be under.

I've been through all sorts of these type of trainers not as a Commander/Captain though, so I know firsthand what you're referring to which is an excellent example and most likely where it derived from. I see a lot of work related scenarios in Star Trek and I understand them on a different level than most, not that I'm better equipped to handle the hot seat, but most certainly can relate. :cool
 

darthgordon

Sr Member
Battle simulations happen all the time in the military. However, they usually have winners and losers.

I suppose the whole point is just to see if you fold under the pressure. It might also test how long you last. I also don't imagine the scenario is the same every time. I guess it would be similar to the Academy "stress test" administered for entrance.

It reminds me of this time I was out in the field (back in the Army), playing "war games." I was left in the TOC alone to watch the radio without any rounds. When I heard a stack at the door. Well... I knew I was dead. So I figured I'd get close to the door, wait in the dark for when they open it and jump out screaming with my unloaded rifle to scare the heck out of everyone. It worked like a charm... and then I went down in a hail of gun fire (blanks, but still an impressive sight in the dark). Probably not the way Saavik should have handled things...
 

superDrool

Sr Member
Blaze of glory is the only way to go if you're alone and have no other choice to survive. But that's just me. :)

That scenario sounded pretty nerve racking though. No rounds, means no gusto, but seems like you pulled it off well. :lol
 

JMChladek

Sr Member
What Nick Meyer might have been going for in 1982 was a video game vibe. Anyone who has been caught up in something and has the desire to "win" has experienced it, be it Pac Man, Pong or Call of Duty. So throw in the impossible level and you get more and more frustrated. THEN the true hidden you comes out for all in charge to see. To me, THAT is what the Kobayashi Maru is. So do you blow the crap out of everything and go out with a high body count, do you try to be diplomatic, do you tell the freighter that you can't rescue them because they are on the other side of the border and go on your merry way? It is almost like a more elaborate variation or an inkblot test. Such a test can be effective even if it might not necessarily be a true simulation of "real life".

Closest real world analogy I can think of is the simulations NASA put their shuttle astronauts and mission control specialists through. They've used the same techniques since the old days of Apollo. After a few normal passes with liftoff, on orbit and landing, they would then throw everything into the simulator to give everyone involved with a workout. It wouldn't necessarily be a "no win" scenario, but it would be pretty intense with some warning or abort light thrown at you every 30 seconds to a minute during an eight and a half minute ride into orbit. The Sim supervisors try to trip up the controllers and astronauts and the goal is to try and "kill" them as death can be very educational so they don't do it when the real mission flies. They do it that way because then it begins to approach the intensity of real life where one malfunction and a necessary split second decision generates the same amount of stress as a bunch of simulated ones since lives are now on the line. And people with big egos like astronauts and mission control specialists do take these things seriously and REALLY don't like failure.

One true story involving a failed sim was a few days before Apollo 11's liftoff. The crew had a day of landing simulations with mission control. The sim supervisors threw in a curveball of too fast a descent rate on the moon where the only solution was to abort (while throwing in another error to distract the controller so he might not catch the problem initially). Neil Armstrong knew what it was as he had correctly diagnosed it, but he did nothing to see what Mission Control would do since he was testing them. Buzz Aldrin was livid though when they ended up crashing before Mission Control told them to finally abort and was griping about it after. Finally Neil took him aside and explained why he did what he did, because sims were for learning and he wanted to see what Mission Control would do.

Well, fast forward to a date in July 1969. Neil and Buzz landed on the moon after a pretty hairy bit of going a bit long on descent and almost landing in a big crater until Neil took over and used up precious fuel to bring the fly the ship and bring it down before the tanks ran dry (all while dealing with a computer error code). Everyone did their job though and they got it down.
 

Treadwell

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
All they have to do is tell the cadets there IS a way to win, and it would look VERY good on their transcripts if they were the first ones to find it.
 

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Java

Sr Member
In order to make the whole thing more realistic (fake movie thing aside) the Kobayashi Maru should have been one of many scenarios for the testing. A couple of lines of dialog about some other scenarios "OOoo which one will you get?" you know?
 

Treadwell

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
^Good idea. Some scenarios are winnable, but you don't want to get "Kobiyashi Maru"! They're messing with your mind if they give you that one!
 

Vermithrax 4

Well-Known Member
I think that's the prime reason why I'm sick of hearing about it, it was the only trainee test they ever really mentioned and made a fuss over, when in reality there would have been many different tests for a variety of reasons. I remember a fairly cool one in Next Gen where Wesley finishes up some written exam and as he's coming out of the testing room he encounters the aftermath of some "reactor meltdown" or something, with injured crewmen lying in the corridor and he swings into action to save them. Turns out it was all a simulation to see how he would react. I liked the fact that they sprung it on him totally out of the blue. Would like to have seen a bit more of that sort of thing.
 

SSgt Burton

Sr Member
The problem I have is that there seems to be a lot of emphasis on "facing death" (as in the cadet is led to believe their crewmates are truly dying around them).

After Spock is "killed", Saavik nearly has a look of despair on her face (which for a Vulcan is another thread altogether :lol)...

But after her "moment", she immediately goes back to doing her job of giving orders to evacuate the ship.

But if it she was aware all along that it was a simulation, how did she get "caught up in the moment?" :unsure

Saavik later accuses Kirk of not "facing death". David (Kirk's son) says that Saavik was right and Kirk never faced death, to which Kirk replies, "Not like this; I haven't faced death."

And in Trek '09 Spock reiterates that the test is to have the subject "face death."

Kirk couldn't handle the fact that he failed and missed the point entirely. His A-type personality drove him to reprogram the simulation so he could finally "win" rather than ponder the ability to handle defeat/failure. And so he never did learn to accept "death." Which is why the death of Spock devastated him.

Of course this doesn't take into account all the redshirts who bought the farm under his command. :lol

I get that with real life comparisons the feeling of pressure and stress is all there, but I don't think anything can prepare you for your companions being killed.

I think the only analogy I can think that would be closest to the point of the Kobayashi Maru, is an Air Force war games flight test in which a pilot is led to believe their wingman has truly had a catastrophic malfunction and the lead pilot actually watches the other plane crash...

Only to be told later that it was a remote-piloted plane and that his buddy wasn't actually flying it. Get what I mean?

I also think that TNG did a better job of "tweaking" the Kobayashi Maru test-

Wesley takes the "psychological exam" for his entrance to Starfleet Academy. He sits waiting alone in a room, when there is an explosion/fire in the adjacent room. One crew member is severely injured and unconscious while another is trapped but unhurt. Wesley makes the hard choice of helping the unconscious crewman (although they could potentially die from their injuries), and leaving the trapped crewman behind. He was completely unaware it was his psychological test all along.

The point being that it didn't actually matter which member he helped, but that he made a decision and acted on it.

Another take was Troi's "Bridge Command Test", in which the ship will suffer a complete disaster unless she can give the correct order to her crew in time. She couldn't figure at first out how to save the ship and have it not cost any lives in the process. It isn't until she realizes she must order a crewmember to their certain death (in this case repairing a section that will cause death from radiation poisoning) that she passes the test.


Kevin
 
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Apollo

Legendary Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
All our branches of Armed forces have these tests.

They are used to see how the traineess react.
 

Omnedon

New Member
Just as a thought ... we don't know that the test "ends" when the door opens. It could conceivably be a character test looking at how you react to an "unfair, no-win" test. Do you pout, shout, moan, cry in frustration, etc. This could be what the test provokes. As a cadet, you don't know what "they" were looking for that would constitute a pass on a no-win situation. If your grade/rank depended on this, as a cadet this could be very stressful.

Omnedon
 

jedi573

Well-Known Member
I think this is a fabulous discussion. Really thought-provoking stuff.

Kevin, I like your mention of Troi's commander's test in TNG. She had to accept that she had to order a member of her crew to his death. Powerful stuff there, and applicable.

There are a few different ways to look at how the students would have known about or considered the test.

If they knew up front that it was a "no win" scenario, it can still be a valid training point.

I'll give an example. I work in law enforcement. As with other members here, there are serious life-and-death decisions I've had to make.

I was doing some "active shooter" training some years back. The scenario was that a gunman had a hostage in a room, gun to her head, and there was only one door in.

Another officer and I were standing outside the door, discussing with the instructor the appropriate plan of action for how to enter the room. Unfortunately, the situation dictated an immediate response into the room with both of us, to then split off to flank the hostage taker.

My training partner remarked to the instructor, "But, one of us is going to get shot this way."

The instructor responded, "Yes. But one of you won't, and that'll be the one who takes out the bad guy."

Even knowing that before going in was an important part of the training. The stress was from the knowledge beforehand, not necessarily the physical part of the test itself.

I think that is arguably an example of how accepting a no-win (or, at least, a solution that's not exactly ideal) might be the best you'll get.

It's doing it anyway that's the test of character for the Kobayashi Maru. The students who didn't give it their all because they said, "What's the point? It's a no-win," would be graded accordingly.

Andy
 

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