Monday, January 22, 2007

About Cheating

On Saturday I was searching the internet for cheats ... unsuccessfully, but that's another story entirely. For those of you who don't know the word ... at least how it's used among gamers: Cheats are special commands or actions build into a program (usually a computer game) through which it becomes easier. Normally they are build in during the development of the game so the programmers and testers can get through easier to, for example, check whether a change somewhere inside really works. Sometimes those cheats are removed before a program is released, but most often they are not.

The game I was checking for cheats on Saturday was "SpellForce 2". I didn't find any, just in case you wondered. This post isn't about the cheats of "SpellForce 2", it's not even about the principle of cheating, although I'll give you my view on the subject first. It's about the reactions I read in a thread in the official "SpellForce 2"-forum.

My views on the subject of cheating are like this: I do it in single-player games quite often - whenever I feel like it, actually. Sometimes I just get too frustrated or want to know how the story continues. As long as it's a single-player game (in other words with the computer as my only adversary), I don't see a problem in this. I would never do it in a multi-player game, because then I'd have an unfair advantage over others ... and thus a victory would be pointless. The same goes for online games. So now you know how I see it, keep it in mind for what I'm going to say now.

I stumbled over the forum while searching Google for "SpellForce 2"+cheats. The thread I was linked to had been started by a member of the forum asking whether or not the new game (which wasn't even out then) would have the same cheats as the first one. Of course, right then nobody could give a clear "yes" or "no". But the second or third answer to it was the first 'anti-cheater'-post in a thread that has 36 pages currently. Most of them don't deal with the real subject (if and how can I cheat in "SpellForce 2"?), but are from either users who hate cheaters or users who, like me, sometimes use cheats in single-player mode.

Apart from the fact that in "Gespensterweb", where I am a mod for the forum by now as well as a chat-admin, those posts would have been erased already (and the users posting them would have been warned about not doing it again), I also find the whole discussion a) pointless and b) intolerant.

It's pointless because, as far as is known, there are no cheats for the game anyway. Discussing whether or not to cheat in this game while nobody can cheat (at least without using additional programs) in my eyes is pretty much like discussing how many angels can dance on a pinhead (my personal guess would be an indefinite number). It's philosophical (even though a lot of people will tell you a discussion about something as horrible and useless as a computer game can't be philosophical) and of no further use. It's not something to discuss in this thread either, because the question whether cheating is good or evil isn't the topic of this thread.

But what shocked me far more than the pointlessness of the discussion (read forums for a couple of months and you know all about pointlessness), was the intolerance. I can understand a gamer getting angry about cheaters in a multi-player game. There a cheater has an unfair advantage over other gamers (who are human). Therefore the cheater will almost always win. In fact some people who are extremely good at games (especially ego-shooters) have already been accused of cheating, because other thought with training alone nobody could control a game like this. What I can't understand is people getting angry and discussing at great length about people cheating in a single-player game. That's pretty much like discussing about people reading the last few pages of a book to find out how it ends (this, by the way, doesn't necessarily work in modern books, because the real important stuff often doesn't come up in the last chapter). It's every person's choice to do it ... or not. I wondered about how those 'anti-cheaters' found this thread anyway. If they don't use cheats, then why did they check out a thread which had the word 'cheats' in it's title? Just to flame, probably - which says a lot about their personalities. Nobody forces them to cheat, so why do they bother with gamers who like to cheat (or at least use some possibilities such as clearing the Fog of War) in single-player mode? This pretty much comes down to a modern form of witch hunting.

What I wondered about next was the policies of the forum. In both forums I regularly post in ("Gespensterweb" and "MangasZene", as I've already pointed out various times) the moderators would already have deleted posts and warned off the users posting them to stop the thread from a) going off topic and b)getting insulting and intolerant. Even in those forums I only use sometimes ("" and "Giga"), something like that would not have been allowed to go on for the best part of 36 pages (each page holding between 10 and 15 posts, as far as I remember). Apart from "Giga" the other forums are managed more or less on a non-profit basis (which is why I am a mod for one of them). This means that the people taking care of them do it for no money and just because they want the forum to continue.

The official "SpellForce"-forum, on the other side, sure should be even better than one on non-profit basis, because there's real money behind it. It isn't, at least not in this thread (and I've checked a few other threads about cheats as well, they're just the same).

By now I know which power a moderator in a forum holds (as I'm a fledgling mod myself), so this obvious weakness makes me wonder about the forum as a such. Sure, everybody in Germany has the right of free speech (which I am exercising here), but even this right has it's limits when it insults someone else. What I would have done in a case like this would have been this:

The first post from an 'anti-cheater' would have stayed in the thread, but I would have edited it, saying something like "this isn't the topic of this thread and further comments like this will be deleted without further notice". Then I would have done just that, deleted the posts. If a user would have continued posting them, I would have warned him/her per personal notice (which is possible in this forum, as I learned by reading some of the posts which referred to it). If this user would have continued after that, I would have banned him/her for a couple of days to show I mean business. If he/she had continued after that, I would have talked it over with the admin of the forum and then completely kicked that user out.

And if you think that's very strict, you should hear my chief admin at "Gespensterweb". He's far more strict than me, he probably wouldn't have warned that user first, but just banned him and kicked him out.

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