Cheating in Video Games
Cheating refers to the act of using a variety of methods to obtain advantages in a game, whether be it to do things not normally possible or to win more easily. Cheating is a very common thing in video games, be it to get infinite health, unlock things before time, win multiplayer matches, etc.
Main Methods of Cheating
- Hacking: External devices like Game Genie can be used to alter values in the system's RAM, altering the behavior of the game in ways not possible with the standard code. For example, in a game with a luck-based item drop system, a player could force a certain value into the RAM which would result in a specific item. In PC games, cheating via hacking is done via third-party software: these programs are often referred to as "trainers," particularly if they are only designed for singleplayer games.
- Modifying game data: Modifying the game data by an external program can also be identified as hacking the game and thus some consider this as cheating as well.
- Editing save data: Editing your save data to change variables such as game progress, inventory items, and maximum health and energy can be considered as cheating. For a few games the save data can be edited easily by a plain text editor, but most games require third-party software to edit the save file properly. Using save data uploaded by someone else can also be considered editing the save file and thus considered as cheating.
- Walkthroughs: Walkthroughs are guides that teach players how to beat a game and where to find secrets. To some this is considered cheating because it removes the need to figure out puzzles and learn how to complete challenges on their own, though most would argue that is is not because it does not involve altering any part of the game's mechanics or rules.
- Built-in cheats: Older games often included built-in cheat codes to activate cheats.
- Console Commands: Many PC games have console commands, which can be used to change the game in many different ways, like key bindings, graphics, etc. But console commands often have developer codes for testing out the game built into them (often requiring a "devmode" addition to the game's launch options): the allow the player to do things like skip to a desired level, disable clipping (allowing the player character to walk outside the map), turn enemy AI on and off, turn on God mode and give themselves items like weapons and ammunition at will.
- In-game clock changing: Some games, like Animal Crossing and Undertale rely on a system clock to keep time, however for example if one changes that system clock, the game will think the game is the next day, when in reality it was not. Later games include methods to detect when the system clock was changed manually.
- Luck manipulation: Sometimes argued to be cheating, this involves exploiting pseudo-random number generators (for example, the original Doom's, which pulls all "random" number events from a set of tables, relying on the randomness of the events themselves to produce random results) in games to produce a desired result, and is based around having more knowledge of the internal structure of a game than a player is really supposed to have. This can be used to shift the random number table to a desired outcome, such as always getting a drop which is supposed to be rare.
- Save scumming: Using a game's manual save function excessively to negate risk (a common point of contention regarding "quicksaving"), or reloading over and over to get a specific desired result. An example of the latter would be betting on horse races in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: while the result is random and supposed to come with a strong element of risk, the player can simply bet all their money on the horse with the worst odds and reload the game if they do not win.
- Glitches: Players who exploit unplanned aspects of a game's regular operation are often called cheaters when the exploits provide a serious advantage. These include things like glitching inside buildings in shooters, or jumping over walls in racing games.
- Macros: Exclusive to PC gaming and fighting games, a macro is a small program which consists of a series of inputs: for example, one could make a macro that changes a complex special move in a fighting game to a single button press, or performs an ideal series of actions with greater-than-human precision. In competitive settings, these are often seen as cheating, though on the flipside the tool-assisted speedrun community is basically built around creating game-length macros.
- External editing: In singleplayer competitive settings such as the speedrun and high score communities, players have been caught using image editing software to falsify high scores, or splicing together multiple segments into what is claimed to be a single-segment run.
- Infinite resources like health, ammo, extra lives, etc.
- Unlocking content right away.
- Physics glitches like walking through walls.
- Getting advantages for multiplayer.
- Funny cheats that don't affect gameplay like "Big Head Mode".
- Intentionally handicapping the player or opponents to make games easier or harder.
- Automating certain functions, such as aiming and shooting (so-called "aimbot" programs) or programs that perform repetitive actions such as grinding or farming.
- Gaining access to hidden developer features, which can also be useful for finding unused items in the game.
Debate regarding Cheating
The main argument against cheating is that it makes games too easy and the gamer cheating is winning not by their own merits but by cheating their way. Cheating is far less tolerated in multiplayer games than in single player, as doing so lets gamers win matches due to having unfair advantages which ruins the fun for the other players.
Online games often include methods to detect cheaters (perhaps the first such service being Punkbuster, which launched in 2000) and ban their accounts. Unfortunately, cheaters constantly look for methods to circumvent those cheating detections. An infamous example is the Pokémon series, in those games cheaters can use hacking to make overpowered Pokémon that look legitimate so cheating detectors online won't notice and use them to win online matches easily.
On the other hand, although cheating indeed gives players unfair advantages, there are many arguments to when cheating can be acceptable. For example. one of the reasons the "Konami Code" is so well-known is that Contra is virtually impossible to beat without it.
Particularly in PC gaming with mods, there is also some debate as to what extent one can change a game from the developer's original intentions without it counting as cheating. A good example of this would be the Duct Tape Mod for Doom 3, which adds a flashlight to several of the weapons rather than requiring the player character to hold the flashlight or a weapon. This is the most popular mod for Doom 3 and one of the most popular mods of all time, but is certainly not what the developers intended.