If you look in the dictionary under „C“ you will find the following word „cheat“. This word has several meanings but every one of them stands for „gaining an advantage over someone else“.
You can cheat in almost every situation in life but today we want to narrow the topic a little down. We want to talk about cheating in games which is around since the dawn of mankind and comes in many forms but of course we concentrate on cheating in videogames were are three main different uses of cheating:

1. Cheating in development and testing
2. Cheating in single player-mode
3. Cheating in multiplayer-mode

Point 1 is the easiest of all and explains were cheats initially come from. Since a developer or a QA-Assistant doesn’t have the time or ability to play a game the regular way in order to find bugs, the developer implements cheats to have an easier way of testing things. For example if the developer needs to reproduce a bug in Diablo II, which only occurs when the character reaches level 40 and has a specific skill set, then he can’t just sit down for a few days and play the game until he encounters the situation. That’s valuable production time he doesn’t have so he modifies the character files directly as he needs them to be. But that’s still too time consuming so he just adds a hotkey to the game, which allows him for example to gain a level by using it. During the production of a game many of such cheats are implanted and once the game is ready, not all companies remove those cheats from the code.

This knowledge brings us not only to point 2 but also raises the question, which main types of cheats exist.

Besides the cheats the developers left in the game, there are also bugs that give the player a benefit if he exploits them - hence the name „Exploit“ for such a bugs. And of course there are ways to modify the game files yourself in order to cheat like the developers do during production. But now to point 2:

Also cheating in single player isn’t considered very noble, it is still tolerated since you ultimately only cheat on yourself. Which brings up the question why you would cheat in a single player-game?

Of course there is problem of beating the game which is the biggest reason for someone to cheat. If you can’t defeat the big boss after several tries, you get frustrated and depending on the level of this frustration you cheat in order to finally move on. Sometimes you also have to cheat in order to get around a bug, that hasn’t been fixed, yet. For example when a scripted event doesn’t initiate and the path in front of you is blocked because of that. These reasons are totally understandable since you paid $50 or more to enjoy yourself and not to throw your controller out of the window. Others use cheats to experience the game, after beating it once, in another way. After all it can be fun to mow through the horde of enemies that gave you such a hard time without getting scratched. Cheats are also often used to find hidden Easter eggs or funny flaws in the design.

But even this rather harmless form of cheating raises the issue of „do I deactivate the cheat after I used it in this impossible situation?“. Isn’t everyone tempted to read the next paragraph of the walkthrough also he just wanted to know a specific point?

Yes, we are tempted and the consequences can be dear if you can’t resist the call. The term „impossible situation“ becomes fluid and soon you ready the cheat or the walkthrough after you’ve only failed once at the situation because you tell yourself „I can’t master that.“. This not only leads to skill declination but you are also on the edge of becoming a strategy-guide-for-a-brand-new-game-buyer or a cheat-from-the-beginning-user. You want to get through the game no matter the costs but this leaves the personal experience behind. If you play with a walkthrough you play exactly like the writer did. You won’t find out new stuff, you won’t leave the given path and so on. If you cheat you won’t have any obstacles to overcome and you won’t experience the game the way the developer intended you to. And of course you’ll be through the game in no time. There is not really any sense in that, is there?

So as an interim conclusion, we can say that cheats be either used for good or evil. For developers they are a vital tool to make the game good. For the gamer they are helpful tools to deal with balance issues or bugs but they also add temptation to the list. If not resisted, they not only destroy the game but also the experience for the player. But also I  feel sorry for those, who can’t resist the call, because I can safely assume, that everyone used a cheat or walkthrough sometime around, I don’t really care what they do as long as they don’t bug me.

This leads us to point 3 and the utterly worst type of cheater: the multiplayer-cheater.

Were a single player-cheater may in most cases still have some common sense, the multiplayer-cheater only wants to be better than anyone else. He wants to show the world that he is big and strong but he can’t do it the normal way. Becoming a skilled gamer takes time and practice. Time a multiplayer-cheater doesn’t want to invest especially since there’s the chance, that he still won’t beat the best. So he does everything to gain the ultimate advantage over the other players without any hesitation. Many even operate on the assumption that anyone else is an idiot because they don’t cheat. Why train a long time for something that you can have in seconds just by installing a program? These people don’t have the slightest understanding of what competition is all about or what a great feeling it is to master a game. They are just after the quick fix like a drug addict and they can’t understand what’s wrong with that. As any addict they think that they are right and everyone else just doesn’t understand it. Cheaters don’t want to understand that they ruin the game for everyone else that wants to play fair and develop real skill. They need the attention and the excitement to survive because without it, they just live a miserable life.

As a final conclusion you can say, that cheating is somewhat part of our live. There are territories were it is a very useful tool but it is also the biggest temptation we have to resist. But still there is a level of tolerance for it in some part of the whole videogame experience. Of course this article doesn’t even scratch the surface of the whole aspect of cheating but I hope I brought a little light and understanding in the whole issue.[CH]

(Veröffentlicht am 20.08.2007)