The Many Ways You Can Pay To Be 'Good' At A Game

How badly do you want to win? Enough that you'd pay to strap on a gaming headset that shocks your brain? Maybe that sounds insane, but then again many of the things people do to gain an edge in multiplayer games are ridiculous.

You might be familiar with more 'tame' practices. I for instance have totally bought special controllers to play stuff online — specifically, Razer controllers for my Xbox 360. Why not? They offer a better experience than the 360's original controllers thanks to remappable, mouse-like buttons and a decent D-pad. Still, the MLG tends to ban controllers like it — and although I'm not interested in going pro or anything, the way the controller allowed me to customise the experience did allow me to play better. Whether or not that's taboo is arguable (hey, PC gaming lets you customise to your hearts content...). But did I buy it so that I could win a little more? Totally.

The desire to win also fuels the practice of cheating — notably, hacks like the one they call Aim-Bot. Using aim-botting, players can do things like auto lock-on, auto-spot players, and kill with a single bullet — amongst all sorts of other things. All for a price, of course. Ah, yes. Winning can be sold, winning has a price — and it's not always hours of practice and dedication. Nor is it as boring as special controllers or cheating.

Soon, brain shock will become a thing that people can actually do thanks to "fo.cus", a gaming headset meant to "overclock your head" via direct current stimulation. The idea is that the shocks will help your brain fire its neurons faster — which can then allegedly translate to better performance in games. The product doesn't come out until sometime in July, and it'll drop for a cool $US249 dollars according to the official website. Whether or not it works, I can't say. Never tried it, and people who have seem unsure about its effects.

What I have managed to try are "digital drugs" made specifically with the purpose of enhancing your abilities in-game. Depending on the genre, there are different binaural beats you can buy. Administering a dose is easy: you put on a pair of headphones, you dim the lights, and then you listen to a special track of binaural beats. It's mostly random sounds. Like the fo.cus, binaural beats are supposed to influence your brain. Some say the beats can get you high; I have no idea if that's true, but the beats did manage to make me feel weird. I'm not sure they improved how I gamed, though.

So far, these methods all require you to actually play the game. But unlike most things outside of the digital world, being competitive in an online game can be wholly about appearances. Many games will allow you to see other player's statistics — meaning that you could hypothetically embarrass yourself without even having to do anything. Having shitty stats is something some people like to avoid. I've been in lobbies where people try to sell their "boost" services — which basically means that you can pay them to play the game for you, typically with the purpose of improving your kill/death ratio. You won't play any better — hell, you might not be any good — but as far as your stats are concerned, you're awesome.

Similarly there are services for World of Warcraft where players will power-level your characters for you. If that makes you raise eyebrows, remember that games like Battlefield 3 allow players to buy entire unlock packs that would normally only be available after many hours of play. Maybe that doesn't seem like the same thing, but while the starting weapons are serviceable, the most powerful weapons can still be better in the right hands. Being competitive can either take time, or it can cost money. Your pick.

Then we have games like League of Legends, which sometimes attract players who sell ELO boosting services. ELO is League's rating system, which calculates the relative skill levels of players. ELO dictates what players the matchmaking system pits you against, typically aiming to put you against players of similar skill in ranked games. Unsurprisingly, websites such as League Boosters have popped up in response. I'm told websites like these are promptly taken down, so here are a few screenshots that explain the service, and tell you about the company (so reliable and trust-worthy, this cheating service!) as well as some price-points:

The prices go up to $US1100, which is absurd — especially when ranking systems are supposed to help you have a good time. If things are too easy or too difficult, you might not have as fun as you would when up against a decent challenge. Is cheating to have a better ranking worth it if you can't keep up? Heck, is being good at a game worth hundreds upon hundreds of dollars? That's for you to decide, of course... though these services — which could very well be scams! — know that people are desperate to be good at games, no matter the cost.

I'm curious: have you done any of these things? Why or why not? How far would you go to be good at a game, outside of actually playing it and improving?

The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games.


    I just play to have fun :) I might have one or 2 matches that might not go my way but when I have that one match I do well......It's the reason I keep coming back :)

    Having said that I did once buy a special controller when Modern Warfare 3 called the SplitFish, a computer mouse and Xbox Controller hybrid. Basically it is a bulky mouse with the abxy buttons on the side, and a seperate hand control for the movement. I could never get used to it though :S

    Last edited 02/07/13 1:41 pm

      I know the time when I bought a voice command utility to play cs... Thought it would help me get better at it. It was from e-dimensional and was quite effective. In the end, I got better at using the keyboard and the software became obsolete :(

      I did learn that you need to use what you have thoroughly to understand the shortcomings and then plug them by getting additional hardware/software. Play Hard, Be Pro

    Might sound a bit boring, but I have never done this.

    I feel that I shouldn't spend 'extra' money to buy perks, especially to hasten my progress. Don't see any effort or fun in that. It does hurt when someone else does it and destroys you in an mmorpg. The important thing is to not give up. One day, you will be able to 'earn' all the perks and before you realize you would have enjoyed the game thoroughly and also be good at it. You may not be the best since you didn't get to use all the perks but you will still be good.

    Each time I play, I do it to be better than before. I think I will be happy if I can be the best average player around who knows his strengths and weaknesses. I play to strengthen my weakness, slowly and steadily I will be the 'Invincible'.... yeah... i know, I am getting carried away a little here...

    Oh and when it comes to buying gears for games, I believe in having the right tools for the trade. Playing with a ball mouse, yeah, that won't be of much help unless you are playing 'Dave' ;) Always helps.


    Last edited 02/07/13 1:45 pm

      Its a great way of putting it. Never will I use money for such a 'service'. I'll play to have fun and progress with my mates then have some tool who thinks he is better than everyone else do it for me. That is not playing a game, that is paying some to do it just so you can brag to your mates that you are lvl 80.

      The shortcut has it's cons too. By skipping the learning experience of being noob and slowly climbing your way to skullcrusher through failed experiments and repeated demoralisation, you have a weak skillset. When others adapt to your newbought greatness, you stagnate and fail. And pay for another game I guess.

      I'll lose 1000 times happily if I can honestly say I learned and gave it my best shot. The 'enhancement' I'd pay for would be getting a electric shock every time I made a stupid mistake.

    Never even thought about it. I game for fun. Sure I'll put money down for cool weapons and different outfits, but those who pay for artificial stat boosts I think are very, very sad.

    Anyone boosting for a competitive advantage is a downright scumbag, and will get their comeuppance when forced to actually perform (CEVO, LAN etc).

    Yeah I've purchased several mice and mouse mats over the years in search of the right combination that would give me an edge over the competition in CS. Also have a game pad to aid in easier control. I hardly think that's cheating, its as much cheating as Kobe Briant or Kevin Durant wearing the latest fandangle shoes on court.

    The other stuff, yeah that's cheating.

    Honourable mention: Buying gold on WoW and other MMO's.

    I went on achievement servers when TF2 had those items when you get a number of achievements...I feel so dirty....must clean myself

    Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) does influence the brain and can (depending on how it is used), be used for facilitating (anodal) or inhibiting (cathodal) performance on certain tasks. By stimulating the prefrontal cortex (responsible for a heck of a lot of different things like reasoning), they may get some effects, but it is unlikely that they would actually improve performance in a game where a variety of different tasks are all occurring at once) because the effects are typically very specific.

    Additionally, because the effects of TDCS are typically measured in the order of milliseconds (the improvement in RT for example is in the order of tens to at most around 200 milliseconds). Basically most people wont notice the difference between when they do get stimulated and when they dont, even if there is a small improvement.

    Also it'd be wise to put some gel on those electrodes (as otherwise the impedance is high and you might get a nasty burning/tingling sensations), though the stimulation itself doesnt hurt and you usually get used to it within a minute or two.

    Finally, most scientific studies using TDCS stimulate between 1-2MA for 15mins to get an effect (and even then, the effects in different people is pretty variable). Doing 1MA for 5 minutes probably isnt enough. Doing it for 40 minutes probably isnt ideal either as most studies dont go beyond 15-20 mins.

    Binaural (rhythmic) beats could conceiviably improve performance in the brain (as studies do show that they do cause the brain to predict when the sounds occur (via beta band oscillations). The way the brain does this is through synchronising beta band activity (the beta band is linked to movement) in the motor and auditory cortex (basically ramping up connections in important areas of the brain), so they could theoreticlly facilitate faster reaction times. But again, you might not really notice the difference.

    Just my 2 cents from using these technologies in a dark and dingy lab...

    Last edited 02/07/13 3:43 pm

      Does that mean my performance is 'electrifying' :P

      Good read, but I think there is a lot more to this.

        Yes. Indeed it does :)

        Yeah, there probably is more to it than what's been written about (or what I've commented on). For instance, it would be interesting to see how their claims of improving performance arise. What do they compare stimulation to (you can be stimulated and not actually have anything really going on you know in a sham condition)? How do they measure these improvements and relative to what? Still a cool thing to muck round with though :)

    paying to be good. that's ironic, because hacking doesn't improve skill.
    Paying someone else does not improve your skill.

    It's like there are also many ways you can be 'special,' but only a precious handful people actually care about. Otherwise, it's just euphemistic bullshit.

    I just... want to have fun. What else would anyone want out of their games? Cheating in any way means I wouldn't even be *playing* the game- at least not the same game everyone else is. But I want to play THOSE games! Not some new rules-changed-dumbed-down thing.

    If I use a trainer in an RPG, I miss out on the experience of role play which is what I'm there for in the first place. If I use some hacks in a fighting game, I'm not really fighting. The rules favour me. I'm not sure how good I am, because it wasn't a fair fight. I want an equal fight against a strong opponent, where I can give all of myself without regret. Dammit, I want GAMES not some pointless *score*.

    If this seems a strong reaction, remember that various game *devs* let you "pay to win". That's no fun- that's work. It's work because you have to earn the money and never enjoyed the game time building skill/rank/etc. So these game devs want me to work- in my spare time?? These cheats and services baffle me- why would anyone want them.

    I am an administrator on a BF3 server. BF3 on PC that is. It is completely ridiculous how easy it is for players to hack these days, versus the resources we have to try to catch them. Because admins can so easily abuse their powers, i.e. 'I'm kicking you because you knifed me', we get very little in the way of detection/observation. And some of the hacks I have seen available are mind numbingly stupid.

    For example, I can purchase I hack that:
    1. - Hides me from the scoreboard, other players etc.
    2. - Will get me points whilst not actually being there (I could be at work and still getting ranked up at home).
    3. - Will give me a new, full copy of the game if/when busted by the developer.

    What's the point in that???

    A new keyboard, mouse + pad?? That's fine though. Winning the internet without logging on to it?

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