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Is it impossible to not cheat in a video game? Well, to answer that, we first have to agree on what “cheating” actually is. In this video I explore what constitutes cheating, whether cheating is even possible with single-player games, and if game developers themselves are even capable of defining what cheating is.

Given that modern games allow–and actively encourage–players to bend the rules and change configurations, is cheating–outside the context of competitive play–an outdated concept? Let me know you thoughts in the comments below.

Transcript(ish)

Hey future Caleb, remember when Tomb Raider was released and word of a nude code spread among pre-adolescent kids like STDs among post-adolescent kids? I spent hours hunting for the code, and for what, to see some aggressively protrusive polygonal boobies. Would I waste that time today, as a grown adult with access to as much naturally protrusive non-polygonal boobies as I want, via The Internet, life’s cheat device?… Yeah. Just because I’m curious doesn’t mean I’m perverted!

Back then, we were looking to alter the game, aesthetically. But what about altering the mechanics or input of a game. Is that always cheating? When is modifying a game not cheating? Is cheating only relevant to multiplayer games where competition is a factor?

You’ll find, as this video goes on, that present Caleb resides firmly in the ‘if you’re not playing against another player, then cheating isn’t even possible’ camp. Until a video game can become sentient and angrily stomp from the couch to the console yelling fuck this shit you fucking scumbag cheater before ripping the power cord from the wall while I try to argue that E. Honda’s hundred hand slap isn’t cheating if it’s in the game you stupid anthropomorphic video game… Until that can happen, cheating doesn’t exist when you’re playing alone as far as I’m concerned.

With that out of the way, why is it that cheating in a single player game isn’t possible?

A few videos ago I defended the easy mode in video games, dismissing that enabling an easy mode is cheating. Or at least, I helped viewers realize that if the argument is that the normal, default mode is the correct, non-cheating mode, then, playing either the easy mode or the hard mode is cheating.

By that logic, we have a lot to demand from developers in order to agree on what’s the default mode. And you’ve got to look outside the game–not just difficulty settings, brightness level, effects volume, controller input map–but also how big your tv is, the comfort of your chair, the controller you are using, what food you’ve eaten.

Every change, whether aesthetic or mechanical, has the potential to alter a game’s difficulty. Even a nude tomb raider, and the distraction it may cause, could make a game harder. Among other things harder…

If we believe that deviation from the game developers’ intended experience is cheating, then we are all of us cheaters, because we cannot ever fully define the developers’ intended experience, nor, I argue, could the developers’ themselves fully define an intended experience.

“Caleb,” says you, present viewer, “you’re being crazy.” (Future Caleb, you can ignore this bit. I imagine you’ve already fallen asleep because 1) you’re old, 2) you’re heard this before, and 3) you’re tired of the present Caleb brand of thought-mulling that asks dumb questions without ever presenting a firm answer. Well, that’s what I do future Caleb. This is who you used to be, before the rigors of life changed you).

Present viewer, you’re saying, “but cheating is the act of making the game easier, not just altering the game.” But ease, I argue, is largely subjective. If the easy mode reduces the number of enemies in a swarm and reduces those enemies’ attacks’ impact on player health, then sure, ease is less subjective. But adjusting brightness or the sound effect volume, especially in a stealth or horror game, often makes it easier. Modifying the controller map for an inverted axis makes first person shooters easier for some players. Those are options, that for whatever reason, rarely get pooled into the cheater category. That’s simply what I’m trying to highlight here. What defines cheating isn’t so simple.

I realize I’m being unfair. I’m asking for a definition of cheating that honors an impossibly small scope. As I said earlier, game developers cannot anticipate every player parameter and certainly cannot assign an official, non-cheater value to each of these parameters. But this unfair angle only presents itself because we haven’t collectively agreed upon a basic understanding of cheating. What is it? What are its limitations? In what context is cheating okay? Given that modern games allow–and actively encourage–players to bend the rules and change configurations, is cheating–outside the context of competitive play–an outdated concept? Let me know you thoughts in the comments below.

When someone accuses your playstyle as cheating, remember that accusation is difficult to make unless you can agree on the developers’ ideal playstate. Challenge your accuser to define cheating. Then when your pedantic bickering inevitably leads to fisticuffs, use a rock to knock him out. Tell him it’s not cheating to use a rock if the world gave you the option to use a rock. Then run, because he’s probably not totally knocked out. After, you are a weak cheater, and you stand no chance.

Please like, subscribe, and click the Bell icon to make sure you don’t miss future videos. I’m trying to get the average views per video up to 100 by the end of the year. Sharing this video with your gaming friends helps a lot toward that goal. And if you are still watching this video, you obviously like it, right? So, please share.

Thank you for watching.

Research/Sources/Credits/Inspirations (this is not a comprehensive list, as that would be impossible, especially the “inspirations” items)

The following are YouTube videos licensed under CC BY 3.0

Music Credits

8bit Dungeon Level Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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