When Is Cheating In A Game OK?

I can tell you exactly when I Pokemon for myself. It was when I enlisted the help of an Action Replay and an obscure program that let me do just about anything in the game. It was like playing god. Pokemon god. And having this powerful ability completely changed how I see cheating.

I wasn't interested in breaking the game. Not exactly. The world of competitive Pokemon — at the time — was a strange beast. You had your group of people who stuck to online battles using programs like Shoddy Battle, which let you make up whatever team you'd like with whatever moveset and attributes you desired.

When you consider the amount of work that something like that would require in real life, what Shoddy Battle offered is amazing. Normally making one Pokemon — breeding it, then raising it to properly have the right skills and attributes — can take an absurd amount of time. Most people might catch whatever is available and go from there, or go with whatever looks cool. But Shoddy Battle let you make your dream team come true immediately.

Back in real life, Action Replay make what Shoddy Battle made possible — only right in your handheld, not in some offshoot program. That seemed more appealing to me, more... legitimate, somehow.

I couldn't help but pull the curtain back even further

But the idea of legitimacy is turned on its head when you're using a special tool to achieve something in a game. It wasn't just using the Action Replay to see the hidden values. Unless you're willing to wade through a bunch of tedium, it's kind of necessary to use for what is known as ‘EV training.' Basically, when you level up, what stats your Pokemon gains depend on what EVs they've accrued. Every Pokemon has specific EVs that they give you after defeating them, and these are added up every time you level.

When you need a particular Pokemon that only appears 20 per cent of the time in a particular patch of grass to make sure your Charizard has a lot of special attack, suddenly the ability to make sure that specific wild Pokemon appears via Action Replay becomes appealing. I initially bought the device just to take a look behind the curtain, but when it gave me the ability to do more, I couldn't help but pull the curtain back even further.

I figured: I could just leave it all up to chance. Or, I can help myself... but just a little. Whatever I thought about cheating beforehand — that it wasn't OK, that I shouldn't do it — faded away.

I remember talking to competitive community members at the time and the way we would discuss it was kind of bewildering. Pokemon you made from scratch using a cheating device? Like say a shiny legendary Pokemon with an absurd moveset? No good, get that crap away from me.

It was like it was cheating, but it wasn't cheating at the same time

If the Pokemon isn't normally possible in the game, then your methods are looked down upon. As if all that other stuff isn't also normally impossible in the game.

But if you if you actually had to put in some work in conjunction to whatever you did with your Action Replay? Well, that was different. That Pokemon was OK. You earned it.

Sure you made that Pokemon appear endlessly somewhere in a way it wasn't supposed to naturally. Sure you looked at stuff you weren't supposed to with hidden stats. But, you still battled through all those Pokemon to gain their EVs. You still went through the process of hatching your Pokemon, too.

It was like it was cheating, but it wasn't cheating at the same time.

What people will do to make cheating OK, to justify cheating, is fascinating to me. On a completely technical level, what I did with my Pokemon is ‘cheating.' I went outside the normal game, I altered the experience I was supposed to have. But it didn't ‘feel' like cheating, because there was work involved.

It seems different than, say, paying to win against other players, even though I'm sure someone like that has their reasons for playing the way they do. Even if it's just "I wanted to have fun" or "I wanted to be a dick."

So maybe it's just me trying to feel better about what I did, to make distinctions where there aren't any. It's like saying "yes, this is cheating, but not as much as this other thing is!" Hah, OK, buddy.

And maybe the distinction doesn't matter when talking about contained experiences that don't affect anyone else. It's one thing to cheat on a single player game, it's another thing entirely to cheat when other people are playing clean. You can sully your morals as much as you want: privately, though. It's your business.

It's like saying "yes, this is cheating, but not as much as this other thing is!" Hah, OK, buddy

The trick here is that with the Pokemon thing, there were other people involved. The entire point of raising a Pokemon with special tools isn't to use them in-game. You don't need to put so much effort into that. Most people try to make "perfect" Pokemon because they want to use them in battle or want to trade them. Which is to say, cheating exists in this wider social sphere where it's socially acceptable to cheat.

If that's the case, then trying to have this noble, moral and universal idea of what cheating is — "act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage" — doesn't quite work. I technically cheated when I played Pokemon...but it was accepted, and widely-done. Can that still be considered cheating? Would stuff like aim-botting still be cheating if everyone did it? But why does it only matter when other people are involved if cheating is a moral thing? I don't think this stuff is as clear-cut as it might seem.

Regardless, the joke was on me: I toyed with what I shouldn't have, and then Pokemon without the power, without the competitive edge, without the extra minutia, became boring. The price of cheating is not always one of integrity.


    My personal thoughts are that so long as your cheating does not effect others (single player games like skyrim) what is the harm? Besides that some games are even more enjoyable with cheats, my most memorable game memories are with either GTA San Andreas or Dark Messiah and they definitely involved cheats.

      Or on your second playthrough of an old game...

      Minecraft is better with cheats, but I agree OFFLINE ONLY!

    I wish I could remember when I Pokemon for myself.

      I know what you mean, these days I only ever seem to Pokemon for other people :/

    I disagree with your conclusion. When playing with others, cheating is cheating - a breach of trust you have with the other player. It doesn't matter if you "still have to work for it" - the question is did you have an advantage others did not. Is your cheat to make rare Pokemon less rare scenario any different to using loaded dice in monopoly to always land on the best property?

    In Solo play, or games where everyone agrees to a change then this is not a cheat - its a rule change. There is no breach if trust if all are aware.

      This is an excellent definition of cheating and it completely explains why the Pokemon EV crowd apparently don't have a problem with AR cards - it's not a breach of trust, so it's not cheating. If aimbots were a part of a game or accepted as standard, they would no longer be considered cheating - like with auto-aim on consoles. If no trust is being broken, people won't care about your methods.

    Cheating used to be PART of the game. With cheat codes enhancing some aspects of a game, often unlocking crazy stuff that would give you a ludicrous edge.


        idkfa, abacabb (mk blood code on the megadrive!!!)

        Up up down down left right left right B A

    I remember back in the day, with Street Fighter 2 on the SNES, there were action replay codes that made mid-air specials possible. It also made it so that when you got hit in mid-air you immediately flipped up, so you could counter attack.
    It was so much fun playing that two player and having Dragonball Z style combat.

    So yeah, cheats that alter the game in fun ways can be very cool. Obviously I wouldn't do stuff like that without the consent of other players.

    As for cheating in single player, well I make no judgement, you do what you want with your own game. But personally I find the majority of cheats end up making the a lot less fun, I'll try to play with cheats now and then but it generally sucks out the enthusiasm for the game.

      Remember those 'alpha' versions of Streets you would sometimes find at the takeaways, or corner shop? Where Ryu would spit out multiple fireballs at a time, Ken would do insane hurricanes all over the screen, Zangief's lariet spat out a yoga flame, etc? I have a theory that super/ultra type moves, that you find in almost all fighting games now, evolved from these hacked up versions of SF2.

      Developers probably came up with the idea of having to charge up a meter first, before you could use an OP move, to make games more balanced. And interesting, cos, honestly, unlimited supers gets boring real fast.

        Woah, I've never heard of any street fighter games with that weird stuff in it

    I personally feel cheating in multi player is a NO and really can't see the point. Take Aimbot for example, whats the point in playing a FPS if you're using a hack/cheat to take the skill out of the game.
    I also feel cheating in single player takes away from the game.

      Cheating in multiplayer though breaks the game for everyone. It's something that impacts everyone and shouldn't be done unless agreed on by EVERYONE beforehand.

      Cheating in single player, thats personal choice and affects only you individually. It can take away from the game (and usually does), but in the end the only person you're harming is yourself. So noone is truly affected except you. So therre's a pretty big difference.

    I think almost everyone agrees here... Cheating when other players are playing is bad. Cheating alone, go for it, it's not hurting anyone.

    If you are playing a game and it has a "cheat code" BUILT IN by the original programmers - is using that code really a cheat?

      Yes, it really is a cheat. God Mode in Doom was put in there by the programmers but it was a cheat. But let's also say that it was fun, lots of fun.

      Everyone seems to agree with single player cheating for fun, I almost always cheated playing Simcity 2000 (more cash) so I could build my city the way I wanted it, but I also struggled along through the normal mode, normal mode was slow, too slow. With the unlimited cash I could just plan out the entire city I wanted and put in all the public buildings, make enough power and hit start. I would than turn legit disabling the cheat.

      Now days you can't really do that as games all need achievements and points and cheating would give you those for next to no effort. And due to the always online of the new Simcity I don't think I can cheat I'll have to play the slow way. Yes I want to cheat in that game, but only in private mode.

      Cheating in Multiplayer is just bad, it's like playing a board game with the guy who always cheats, it's just no fun for anyone else, and at the end of the day I don't see how it gives you any sense of accomplishment, Back when we played C&C 1 we had a gentlemans agreement, no killing harvesters but there was always a guy who did just that, so the rest of us all used our Super Weapons on him in sequence. He always complained we did that, but we only ever did it because he broke the gentlemans agreement.

    Haha, I've gotten into arguments with my friend over whether RNG abuse in Pokemon is cheating or not - I say it is, he says it isn't and part of the argument is because everyone does it :P

    Cheating is still cheating even if you have to work for it. And even when done by yourself in single player, it's not cool to do that then try to claim your awesomeness at achieving [whatever] in the game, as compared to others who did it the "proper" way.

    if your cheating affects other players its wrong looking at stats is ok modifiying them in a way the game didnt intend is not

    Last edited 30/12/12 6:59 pm

    I believe cheating is only acceptable in GTA, well because running around as an old lady with 5 stars, with an ak47 with infinite ammo, and chicks following you is fun XD.

    If you're finding it a blast and it doesn't give you an unfair advantage over others in the case of multiplayer gaming, go for it as far as I see. The pedestrian riots in GTA are an example of an instance where cheating is actually incredibly fun :P

    When it comes to cheating in say, skyrim, because you know how to type unlock in the console and you didn't want to retreat all the way back out of a dungeon for a lockpick, at least its only affecting you (I admit I've done this a few times and felt really guilty afterwards!). It's when it ruins the experience for others that it's not okay.

    As for achievements, I've always found the disabling of say, trophies in the majority of ps3 games when any cheat is used has been a pretty solid move on the developers' part. Half-Life 2 did this too, when sv_cheats was enabled.

    I'm pretty much of the mind that cheating is only suitable in two cases:
    1) solo experiences where you're only cheating yourself but you're perfectly fine with this.
    2) situations where -all- affected parties acknowledge and are content with the presence of cheats. All!

    I remember pouring like 150 hours to get every last pokemon in the blue and red games. Every single one. I remember going to that pokemon safari and not stopping till i found and caught those last two pokemon (one was skyther or something like that and kangaskhan)It was frustrating but the achievement I felt once i finally found that last pokemon and caught him was tremendous. It would not have felt the same if i cheated to get those last two pokemon. But i can see that its not everyones idea of fun spending hours and hours just to catch two extremely rare pokemon (that were not only hard to find but hard to damn catch!)

    Last edited 31/12/12 7:59 am

    I find cheating ruins games. Once the challenge of the game is gone so does alot of the fun IMO.

    So In most instances i believe there is no real reason to cheat in a game. However its not always black and white. Take for instance a game like skyrim, say you invested 100hours and have a high level character with awesome weapons. What if one day your save game gets corrupted/destroyed/hacked etc and you lose everything. I think its fair to cheat to get you back to the point you were before everything was lost.

    The main thing is if you need to cheat to bypass the challenge of a game its just not right.

    Cheating is when you wreck an game for someone else - why would you wan't to? Experimenting with an game, with codes (not 'cheats'), is fine. But don't wreck the game for yourself! After you've shredded an game, that you love, and you still want more - have fun with Codes. It's not rocket science.

    I think this article is pretty pointless, really.

    If you decide to use AR codes or in-built codes in a single player game, who cares? You paid for the game and its entirely up to you what you want to do with it. But there are some people just like poking their heads in and telling you how to enjoy a video game. They seem to forget that games are just a form of entertainment and what people find fun is entirely subjective.

    In MP games cheats obviously shouldn't be used without the consent of all involved. Otherwise it becomes unfair to everybody else and potentially takes the fun away. However, I also think some gamers take their hobby far too seriously. It isn't the Olympics - if someone is cheating just boot or report them. The kind of attitude I've witnessed at times is very much over the top to the point where you'd think their livelyhood depends on it.

    But all in all, for SP games no one has any place telling others how they should be playing a video game. For MP sometimes its hilarious to see how worked up people get over nothing. But yes, its still not appropriate to ruin other peoples fun in MP games.

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