Massively Overthinking: Are you a cheater in MMOs or other games?

Lo Stark

We recently got a press release about a pair of studies on cheating, and I hesitated to run it as a news article because the studies were sponsored in part by a company that makes single-player game trainer software and so obviously has a vested interest in positive studies of cheating. However, the stats offered – even if biased – are still worth chewing on.

For example, according to these reports, more than half of gamers surveyed say they have used cheats in games, weighted for single-player games (although most won’t admit it because of the stigma). The trainer software maker also reported that in its tests, players who used cheats “reported feeling much happier and less bored” than the non-cheating control group, though of course you might wonder whether the game’s design itself was a bigger factor.

In any case, let’s tackle the topic in tonight’s Massively Overthinking. Have you ever used cheats or something you would consider a cheat in video games? Single-player or multiplayer? If so, why do you do it? Do they make you happier and less bored, or do they ruin games for you?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’ve mostly only used cheats for offline games I think. Almost never any of those old Game Genie-esque devices unless at a friend’s house so they could show me something, just like, actual “cheats” in the game, like passwords or button pushes. When a friend was showing me actual cheats/hacks, it was often so I could get an idea if an unlockable was worth it or to explore/see things I couldn’t normally see, like walking through terrain to see unfinished level design. In fact, I’ve done that in a few MMOs, but without a cheat device.

That’s where my biggest MMO “cheats” have come into play: wall climbing and physics abuse. Never done it through hacking or anything, I’ve just been around long enough to have an idea when and where certain tricks might work. The worst was in Asheron’s Call 2, as I would wall climb up plateaus just to see what was up there (usually nothing) or just have launch parties where I’d use a knock-back attack on someone jumping to launch them into the stratosphere, kind of like the Skyrim giant launch bug, except people lived… most of the time. The only advantage I got from those kinds of bugs were, at best, shorter runs, but that was pretty rare, and often not a big deal, as I often shunned fast travel that would have skipped the areas I was in altogether.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’ve often wondered if there’s really such a thing as “cheating” in a single-player game, as long as the player isn’t also claiming some sort of world record or high score. If the purpose of gaming is enjoyment and entertainment, and the results of the exploit don’t interfere with another’s ability to enjoy themselves, then what’s the harm?

As for myself, I’m a big proponent of mods. Heck, I think you could pretty easily argue that one of the biggest reasons Skyrim is so heavily played and highly regarded (and still relevant) is because it’s so customizable by third parties. In the case of that game, mods have certainly made the game more enjoyable for players while simultaneously extending it’s lifespan.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I have zero qualms about using cheats in single-player games. I don’t consider what the developer shipped to be sacrosanct; I am going to tweak and nudge the game into a toy that suits me and whatever I want to do with it. Maybe it’s the single-player games I choose to play, but modding is my endgame – the opposite of boredom. (I do, however, think it’s usually wise to play as intended a few times before doing that, though, so you understand what you’re even doing. Learn the rules before you break them. That’s what I teach my kids, anyhow.)

I don’t ascribe to the same philosophy in multiplayer games, however. Cheating online is breaking the social contract between players; a cheater is playing a different game from everyone else and undermines the game for everyone.

That said, I have written in the past about how I felt differently in my first MMO when I was a teenager. I didn’t mind risking my account to enact some vigilante justice on people who were a net harm to me and to the community, and the definition of what constituted a cheat was very fuzzy in a world where on paper putting a rock on your keyboard to macro was cheating and yet people got away with far worse all the time. I don’t really think gaming society is quite the same now as it was in the wild west of the late ’90s, though. And I certainly am not.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): In my opinion, if you’re not using money cheats in The Sims or in SimCity, you’re doing it wrong. When it comes to offline, single-player games, whether they’re city builders, FPS titles, or other types of games, cheats let me enjoy gameplay a lot more, especially if I just want the catharsis of gibbing enemies or the chill of putting together something.

In terms of online games though, I’ve never cheated. The closest I’ve gotten to that is using whatever counts as free play or sandbox mode in certain survival games like No Man’s Sky, but then that’s less about cheating and more just an open option in that regard.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I mean, who hasn’t in single player games? We all used the Konami code for Contra, or the unlimited cash code for The Sims, and the like. But I feel that this used to be more of an old school thing, to give us more mileage out of the fewer games we had or were able to purchase. Today’s games are so wide, expansive, and numerous that this isn’t as much of an issue.

I definitely don’t condone using cheats in a multiplayer environment, although exploits are more of a grey area — I put the onus on the devs to close those holes but the freedom for players to use them if they still exist.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I’ve never used straight-up cheats in a multiplayer game. You could make an argument that some builds are so broken that they may as well be cheats, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what we’re on about here.

In single-player games, though, it’s a different story. I mean, who hasn’t used the infinite money cheats in The Sims or used cheats way back in the day with the Game Genie. I remember one summer where I finally found my old Ninja Gaiden games. Those were so notoriously difficult that it was like sweet revenge. Pop in unlimited lives or whatever was available and knock out the whole game. It felt so good getting to experience the ending first-hand, even if it was with cheats.

Then there’s games where you have built in cheats like The Elder Scrolls difficultly slider. The first time I found it was epic. Monsters that I was struggling with suddenly got one shot. Of course in that case, after a week or so the game actually lost all fun due to the lack of a challenge. Sure, I could put the slider back up, but it just wasn’t the same.

So it’s a tough call. I don’t think there’s any shame in using cheats in a single-player game, but you do have to know you may be robbing yourself of some of the game’s challenge. Though, in some cases, like with Ninja Gaiden, I just really wanted to see the endings myself without grinding through it all, so there it was worth it.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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