Cheating in Video Games: Is it that bad?


I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a cheater. No, not on a significant other, a test, or a diet, but I am someone who does cheating in video games. I’m also not really ashamed of it.

No, I don’t mean in multiplayer games or online. I’ve never hacked my health in a Dark Souls duel or used an aim-bot or a speed-hack in a PvP game, but have I ever loaded Cheat Engine up on my PC, PokeSav’d some of those adorable little pocket monsters, or run a Game Genie or Gameshark? Sure. Definitely. It’s not the most uncommon thing to hear about, but if you tell someone that you’re cheating in a game, they almost seem offended. It’s as if you not putting in as much effort as they did is a personal slight.

I’ve got to ask though, if you change some values or run a script in a single player game, why is that frowned upon? There’s a great many reasons to do so, like time and effort. Yes, it’s admittedly very cheap to do such things, and you’re not going to feel like your earned it if you give yourself the ultimate weapon in Generic RPG Quest XXVI. However, what if you’re just tired of the game, and want to rush through it just to conclude the story you’ve spent some time with? If Item X in a game is really awesome, but requires grinding for Item Y and Z that only drop 0.05% of the time, is it really so bad to just give them to you? Or, as most cheats were back in the day, what if it just did something really awesome like a weapon that exploded all your enemies in a goretacular fashion, equipped restricted items to different characters just to see how it changed things, or gave you a Magmar in Pokemon with Heatran’s signature move just because you think it’d be neat? Is that so bad?

Let me continue with the Pokémon example then, but take it to a different place. Armed Gamer’s Emily Horton did a lovely piece on how the those wacky pokeymans fights have become such a serious and in-depth affair for the community. Players will spend hours to breed a ‘mon with certain moves and stats, then spend time training other values on it to specialize those stats, and repeat the process over and over until a competitive team is built. I’m proud of everyone who does that, and good on you. I don’t have the time or the patience to go through all of that, yet without doing all of those things I’ll get crushed in online battles. If there’s a way I can just create the pokémon team I want though, and it counts as legal under Nintendo’s programs to keep hacked teams from their field, then why not? I get to jump to the fun part of the game without doing the tedious stuff necessary to win; instead of treating it like a chore, cheating can help me play the game.

Is that really so bad? Well, some would say yes. Anything not intended by the developers is a very gray area, and everyone’s thoughts are different. I’m personally on team in-game exploits = ok; outright cheating = well, cheating. For everyone who’d agree with me though, others would cry foul, especially where a multiplayer game is involved. Find a broken mechanic on a class or boss in an MMO? I think you should be justified to use it, because you’re playing the system in-place, and it’d get patched out soon enough. However, you’ll find plenty of stories from people in games like World of Warcraft who were banned or punished in other ways for doing something like that. Is using an item that you obtained in a glitch really cheating, or does it just make you exceptionally lucky? When some bugs are penalized (randomly overpowered weapons dropping) while others are accepted (drop rates on rare items suddenly becoming 100%), it seems like we’re fine with a little cheating if many can do it, but not if only a handful of people have that option. A bug or an exploit should be the same, no matter how it is used. Creating unfair advantages against other people, however, is definitely not something we can just all though, because no one wants a game where one group of players can just faceroll the others using an exploit or glitch.

When you step away from your personal one-player games, cheating is a much larger issue to look at. There are some games I doubt I’d have stuck with  if it weren’t for the ability to do little exploits or hex-edit with. Not because they were bad games, but because having that option meant I could just skip a lot of the parts I thought were exceptionally dull, or I could finally get that one drop that wouldn’t ever drop for me. However, with networks,MMOs, leaderboards, and achievements, there’s all these other questions to think on. Is using a modded character or equipment in games like Borderlands or Torchlight with your friends okay? What about in an open online game? Should you lose your rewards for finding unintended ways to complete challenges in MMOs, even though others did it the “legitimate” way?

What are your thoughts on cheating, and do your thoughts change as the potential to connect with other players grows? In the meantime, if you’re wondering where this shotgun that fires rockets with unlimited ammo drops from…it was from Butt Stallion. Yeah. Maybe you’re just not lucky enough to get one.

About David A. Reeves

David is a 25 year old graduate with a BA in English, and he's wondering how all of this adult stuff crept up on him. He has a large love of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy, a lack of budget sense during Steam sales, and is involved in an abusive relationship with the MMO genre. Outside of gaming, David can be found reading books with swords and magic, suffering from writer's block on that story he said he'd write, enjoying a hookah or a beer with friends, and trying not to say anything inappropriate despite the overwhelming urge. He's an odd fellow.

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