With reflexes like Spiderman, the ability to see through walls like Superman, and the indestructible superpower of Wolverine, even a poor gamer can be a winner. But they’ll still be a cheat.
It seems like harmless fun, but cheats are actually big business with millions of dollars in turnover – and a real problem for the gaming world.
Cheats were always around, but previously they were built into the game by the developers to help lazy or curious users. And they were mostly only available in single player mode.
Today things are different. Popular cheats and hacks often come from outside developers in the form of an additional programme.
For the popular tactical shooter multiplayer game “Counterstrike”, there are aimbots that do the aiming for the player and wall-hacks that allow them to see enemies through walls.
For tactical games such as “League of Legends” or “DOTA 2” there are cheats to get missions or reveal maps without the usual effort.
Much as an individual player might like these helpers, they’re not good for everyone else.
“As soon as there are cheaters, players lose confidence in a game,” says Marcel Menge, an anti-cheating expert with e-sport organiser ESLGaming. “This can go so far that it poisons the climate of a whole community.”
“One of the dangers of cheating is that it leads to more cheating,” explains researcher Jeremy Blackburn, who has written several studies on the subject. “When I see people cheating, I’m more prone to try it myself.”
Exposed cheaters quickly become outcasts in the gaming community. That being so, why do so many risk it?
“Cheaters simply don’t expect to be caught,” says Blackburn. For many, the attraction is simply to be superior to others, Blackburn says.
But games aren’t just about fun, they’re also about money – which is why fraud is a problem not just for the many casual gamers but also for professional e-sports tournaments.
“On our two platforms last year, we blocked 4,200 people because of cheats,” Menge says. “That’s still well below a single-digit percentage.”
The fraudsters are usually good players who would have a chance of winning even without cheating. “As with doping in cycling, it’s about getting the last bit out,” Menge says.
To prevent cheating, ESLGaming requires its players to use special anti-cheat software when competing in online tournaments.
In the non-competitive gaming world, it’s the game publishers who lead the fight against cheats. Software such as EasyAntiCheat, VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) and Punkbuster can be integrated into games.
Cheaters could even face legal consequences. “Whoever plays a game enters into a contract with the provider of the game,” says lawyer Konstantin Ewald. “And in these contracts it regularly says that you cannot use the games with technical tools such as cheats or bots.”
Of course, in reality the penalty is much more likely to be a ban from the game or gaming platform, either for a certain period or forever. For most cheating players, this isn’t enough to scare them from taking the short cut to winning.