We don’t always play games the way we’re supposed to. We’ve all pulled out that little trick that helps us get through a tough area, beat a boss, or get a higher score. It might not be turning on God Mode in the developer console or using an aimbot, but it’s not quite on the level either. But it’s fine. It’s not cheating. Right?
Below are some...questionable things I’ve done or seen done in games. Is it cheating?
The other night Kotaku’s editor-in-chief and I were riding the subway together, discussing Hitman (like you do). I was explaining the Elusive Targets and how you can’t save during a level; if you kill the target or die, that’s the only chance you get. I told him I’d seen YouTubers play the Targets by scoping them out in advance, quitting the mission, and then using the intel they’d gathered to play it for real and get a higher score.
“Isn’t that cheating?” he asked me.
My verdict: Yes. The ‘one shot’ nature of the Elusive Targets is what makes them so special. Pre-planning runs counter to their spirit. Going in blind and working out a strategy on the fly is what makes them so high stakes—and also so much fun. If you fumble a Target or make a silly mistake, you just have to live with the consequences. Good luck, 47.
Last year, I was sick on New Year’s, so I finally decided to play the immensely excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order. It’s a game with a lot of difficulty options, but I picked one pretty in the middle. Things were going well for me until I got back from the moon, when I found myself stuck in a firefight without enough health or ammo. I tried; I died; I tried again; I died again. And again. And again.
Frustrated (and sick, mind you!) I opened up the pause menu. There were so many difficulty options! Surely I could take it down a peg, just this once...
I did it. I lowered the difficulty, cleared the room, and then immediately raised it again. Later, facing off against the London Monitor boss, I lowered the difficulty again. I only had a weekend to play the game and I wanted to see it through. No one was the wiser (until now, I guess). Was it cheating?
My verdict: No. As I say to my fellow Kotaku staffers concerningly often: life is hard enough. Getting stuck on a level or a boss battle can turn an enjoyable game into something you look back on with anger and dissatisfaction. There’s enough things in this world to be angry about. Play the way you want to play. Live your best life.
I spent most of my time in Skyrim ignoring the plot and wandering around (apologies to the four of you who now have to reinstall it because I brought it up). One night, while exploring the vast landscape, a dragon swooped in. I wasn’t prepared for a fight, but the dragon was intent on it. What to do?
I bunny-hopped up a mountain (I have since come to dub scooting up un-scootable geometry in games ‘Skyrimming’) until I stumbled upon a small, weird crevice. The dragon couldn’t damage me, but I was able to take potshots at it and slowly chip away at its health. It took a long time, but I ultimately brought down my foe—not through my own combat skill or good planning, but simply because I’d cheesed the geometry. Is it cheating?
My verdict: Maybe. There’s a grand tradition in gaming of exploiting levels to your benefit. You aren’t supposed to be able to get up here, but you did—surely you deserve something for your ingenuity! But I always feel a little cheap when I do this. I don’t do it in pursuit of a noble goal, like speedrunners do—I just do it when I’m not in the mood to play fair.
Do you agree with my verdicts? Is there a cheating quandary eating up your soul? Drop it in the comments and let the whole of the internet weigh in. Or drop me an email, and maybe we’ll present some of your best moral crises next week!