Cheating in Video Games: Is it Ever Justifiable?

edited August 2023 in Gaming

Cheating in video games is an issue that has plagued players, developers, and fans for years. It's a practice that carries ethical questions and brings with it potential consequences such as game or server bans and public humiliation. While there are various reasons why people cheat in video games, is it ever justified?

What is cheating in video games?

Cheating in video games is a common practice that involves players using various methods to gain an advantage or make the game easier. Generally, players use hacks or exploit glitches within a game. Hacks are external programs that alter the game code and enable players to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. Exploits involve taking advantage of specific game mechanics left unaddressed by developers or unknown to the average player. As it’s a pretty widespread problem, it can take many forms, but there are some more commonly used ways people cheat.

  • Cheat codes: Entering a code to gain ammo, health, lives, weapons, or some other game resource. 
  • Exploiting bugs: Taking advantage of glitches, bugs, or broken mechanics in a game. 
  • Game modifications: Making changes to game files or code to alter the game's behavior, give players an edge, or make objectives easier to achieve. 
  • Player collusion: Two or more players working together to gain an advantage during online matches by sharing information or cooperating on strategies.  
  • Third-party tools: Using external software or hardware such as aimbots or wallhacks to gain information about opponents that are not available through normal gameplay.  
  • Using multiple accounts: Creating extra accounts and using them to manipulate outcomes. 
  • Stream sniping: A practice in which a player watches a live stream of a video game being played by another player, in order to gain an unfair advantage in the game by anticipating the actions of the player being streamed.

Why do people cheat in video games?

Cheaters have a handful of excuses when it comes to justifying their actions. Although some are less harmful than others, each individual has their reasons.  

  • A feeling that everyone else is doing it, so it’s the only way to win. 
  • Impress friends, family, and the gaming community. 
  • Players don’t want to spend time grinding for achievements or leveling up. 
  • Pressure from peers or competitors. 
  • To gain a competitive edge or some sort of advantage. 
  • To help a player advance further in the game faster.

When did cheat codes first start?

It’s difficult to pinpoint when cheating started, or even the first cheat codes. The lines are blurry, as some of the first codes discovered were simply developer tools created to help debug and test games. However, they were popularized in the 1980s and 1990s with codes that anyone gaming in that era would know. 

  • Doom (IDKFA): Used for full, ammo, armor, health key, and weapons. 
  • Konami Code (up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A): Used in many Konami games such as Contra and Gradius to unlock special features. 
  • Mortal Kombat (A-B-A-C-A-B-B): Used to access blood on the Sega Genesis version. 
  • StarCraft (there is no cow level): Used to instantly win a mission.  
  • Super Mario Bros. (Hold A and press start at the title screen): Used when a player loses all lives and wants to restart at the current world instead of the beginning of the game.

Of course, these are just a few examples of cheat codes as thousands have been incorporated into games. Players also took advantage of glitches or bugs in games such as wall jumping in Mario Kart 64’s Wario Stadium to skip large portions of the track. They were so widespread that magazines including Nintendo Power became popular for codes. There were even devices created for the sole purpose of entering codes like Game Genie and Game Shark. Although we don’t see as many cheat codes these days, they are such a huge part of gaming culture that they can still be found in more recent games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2.

Why is cheating in online video games bad?

Many gamers argue that cheating in offline games leads to more interesting gameplay and levels the playing field. There’s no doubt that non-competitive offline play holds fewer consequences. However, cheating during online play, competitions, or in esports undermines the fairness of the game by providing advantages to those who exploit it, rather than relying on their strategies and skill. Cheating ultimately questions the integrity of online gaming, leading to a frustrating experience for both casual and competitive gamers. There is an assumption that matches are fair and balanced and without this trust, the experience is ruined for players and fans.

Famous cheating examples in video games  

Over the years, there have been some alleged examples of gamers cheating which ruined the reputation and in some instances the careers of some high-level players. 

What are the repercussions of cheating in online video games? 

Cheating in online games can be serious. It can lead to bans from servers, tournaments, fines, suspensions, or even permanent removal from gaming communities. Gamers found cheating may also lose access to their game accounts and purchase or earned items. Players caught cheating could even face legal action if they use exploits or hacks that violate a game’s terms of service. Even more seriously, the reputation of a game can be ruined if players deem cheating too widespread.

What are game developers doing to combat cheating? 

With the prevalence of cheating in video games, it's no surprise that developers and gaming companies are taking a proactive approach by building or incorporating anti-cheating software. Generally, these systems are designed using algorithms to detect suspicious activity, scan game files for modifications, or catch unusual behavior.

Examples of anti-cheating software: 

  • Easy Anti Cheat: Detection software designed to prevent cheating in online games. It works by scanning game files and detecting any modifications. It also blocks malicious code from being injected into the system, preventing cheaters from exploiting vulnerabilities in the game's code. 
  • FairFight: A middleware enforcement system that tracks player activity and behavior using real-time analytics. It monitors statistics such as aim speed, kill streak frequency, and weapon accuracy to identify potential cheaters.  
  • PunkBuster: An anti-cheat system that uses client-side scanning to detect modifications to the game's code and suspicious traffic on the server side. It can also block access to servers if it detects unauthorized software or hacks.  
  • Valve's Anti-Cheat System (VAC): One of the longest-running and widely used anti-cheat systems. It uses both signature scanning and behavior analysis to detect cheats and hackers, with bans issued when suspicious activity is detected.

So, is cheating ever justifiable?

Cheating in a video game can have serious repercussions for all stakeholders. Gaming communities take cheating seriously, as it ruins the fun for players who are playing honestly and trying to compete fairly. Ultimately, it’s never justifiable, and it's always best to play fair to keep an even playing field. Let’s face it, there’s nothing less rewarding than cheating to win.



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