Friday, December 30, 2016

The Art of the "Cheat" in Video Games

What is considered cheating in a video game?

We know that creating mods for MMO's and MOBA's that give you extra stats, better HP/MP, or access to digital currency will get you banned. Exploits such as these create an unstable environment for everyone that goes against the mechanics of the game. If one person has an advantage from cheating, it affects all gamers who play.

But what about mods for Falllout 4 that soup up your battle suit to do extra damage on the field? Or giving you unlimited arrows in Skyrim so you don't have to waste time crafting them? These are single player games where one can easily log hundreds of hours to get to the end. You don't interact with other people so, is it really cheating if you jump into the developers console are give your character 500 gold pieces? Or tack on a mod that speeds up your crafting?

That's what Kotaku is asking today and the answers are kind of surprising. People have been jumping in to the topic with some interesting questions and their perspective of cheating in video games. Does reading a game guide count? Or what about kiting a boss for an hour instead of fighting it head on? That second one is very much within the mechanics of the game, but it's not the most noble approach. Is it still cheating?

As a whole, the gaming community seems fairly open to mods. We wouldn't have hundreds of websites devoted to them, or Steam. The platform of Steam thrives on gaming modification. Most mods are cosmetic, taking the original coding of the game and fine-tuning it with character designs and clothing options that don't make us feel like we're digital hobos. I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy 14 starter gear.

For me, I'm not as opposed to it as I once was before. I'm an adult with a full time job and a full time crafting business. It's difficult to sit down and play games like I could years ago. So downloading a mod that may enhance my battle stats so I can get through a game a bit faster? It doesn't bother me. However, I do this very rarely. When I do mod, it's cosmetic. I can only stare at the Inquisitor PJ's for so long before I start hating it (btw, thank you BioWare for expanding their wardrobe). Funny enough, if you google "Inquisitor PJ's" the first 5 rows of images are all mods.

If I feel the need to cheat in a game like The Sims, I do it through the developer console. Codes that are already built into the game to add extra lives, more money, or removing plot barriers to you can create buildings that don't conform to logic and gravity. And since those are built into the game, I don't really see that as cheating either. The developers left them in there for us to use, so why not take advantage of it? It doesn't take away from the fun of the game and allows me to openly explore more areas that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise.

I would argue the same thing with kiting bosses or utilizing the environment to get a leg up on your enemies. If the game was designed so that a monster wasn't allowed to climb a mountain, then you are, you bet your ass I'm going to go up that mountain and take pot-shots until the enemy dies. Is that cheating? It's built into the game, so I say no. You're using your brain to stay within the logical limits of the game to achieve your goal. Is that any different in GTA when you can create barriers for cops by using NPC vehicles, in order to get away?

I also don't believe that looking up game guides is cheating, to an extent. Anything that would walk you through a story does cross my line, because I want to be surprised by what's coming next. But general content such as "the NPC you need is in X location" is immensely helpful in games where markers are either unclear or unavailable. I don't see an issue with the latter.

Right now I'm playing through Dragon Age: Origins. This is my 6th attempt at the game. I can't stand the battle system. No matter which of the three jobs I play, it annoys me. It's clunky. It's inefficient. Mages are TOO squishy and battle mechanics for companions are dreadfully inaccurate. I have attempted to beat this game 5 times, but always gave up when I arrive at, or as I'm about to leave Lothering, the first town in the game. I ended up going to the Dragon Age wiki to read the story. It's a good concept! I like the dynamics of the unusual team. Morrigan gets a thumbs up from me and so does Shale. I watched a few cutscenes on YouTube and found appreciation for the game.

Recently I decided to try again, but I knew in order to make it past my stopping point, I had to do something about the battles. Either suck it up and deal with them every time or mod.

The mod won. I'm currently using two versions: one is a ring that gives my characters 5000% increase to all stats making enemies die in one hit and I'm not longer a squishy Mage/Rogue. The other is cosmetic armor that also happens to give me a 1000% stat boost. For fights where I do want a little challenge against bosses, I will swap the ring for the armor. I fully admit to my cheating ways on this one, but I'm doing it for the story. I'm not playing Dragon Age: Origins for it's robust action. I want to get to the story and listen to the banter of my party members. Using the mods are not harming anyone. If anything, they allow me to enjoy the game more because I'm no longer fumbling with the mechanics. I can like the game and the story for what it is.

So how do you feel about cheating in a video game? What do you quantify as cheating?

Thanks to my friend Jeremi for sharing this post from Kotaku. It's a good one.


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