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Are You a Games Cheater?

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I love this article from Wired about cheating in video games. I typically don't cheat, unless I'm a) blazing through a rented game, or b) am blazing through a game I don't care about, or c) am ticked at the developers for not making a game intuitively. It seems to happen in about 1 in 3 games, the testers just missed something - and if you Google search that area of the game, lots of others cite the same frustration. Here's a clip:

A month ago while playing Final Fantasy XII, I fought my way to Tiamat, a vicious, huge-clawed dragon -- and couldn't get past him. No matter how many ways I threw my team at the beast, he ripped us to ribbons. Screw it. I decided to check an online FAQ for some hints defeating this thing.

"That's cheating," a friend of mine scoffed. "Really?" I wondered. Personally, I've always figured that using a FAQ might be lame -- like reading the Cliff's Notes version of War and Peace -- but it isn't cheating. It's not like I'm hacking the game with a Game Genie to illicitly acquire extra lives, right?

We never agreed on it. But our argument reminded me of something quite interesting: Video-game players often hold radically different views on what constitutes cheating. Today's digital fare represents the first time we've argued about the precise meaning of cheating.

It didn't used to be so hard to figure out. Johann Huizinga, one of the first big philosophers of ludology -- the study of play -- defined cheating as when you pretend to obey the rules of the game but secretly subvert them to gain advantage over another player. In traditional games, it's usually obvious. Stuffing an ace up your sleeve in poker, slathering a baseball in spit, moving the chess pieces when your opponent goes to the bathroom? Yeah, that's cheating.

Today's multiplayer games -- like Unreal online -- are pretty similar to the old-school stuff. If somebody uses an illicit aimbot to give themselves perfect targeting ability, most gamers agree that's unfair. But where things get super weird is with single-player video games.


posted by Joshua Griffin @ 11:50 AM |

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At 4/23/2007, Blogger matt said...

I'm pretty strict on myself for not using cheats if I want to actually finish a game. Because using cheats, or guides/walk-thrus means that the game designer was smarter than me. For me, video games aren't me vs the game, it's me vs everyone who worked to design the game, and I'm not gonna let them get the best of me!


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