While I was away at Lake Tahoe, approximately 200 people responded to my poll on cheating. That doesn’t seem like a lot given my daily traffic, but I suppose I should discount all those who end up here via Pokemon related Google searches.
I took a snapshot of the results over the weekend to look at. The poll is still open, so the votes may vary a little from what you see below, but the pattern seemed to be set by about the 100th person and has not varied much since.
I make no claims of statistical validity. If I were designing a survey on constitutes cheating in an MMO, I would have gone about it quite differently. This was just something to get a sense of what people who read this blog, and who have an opinion on the subject, we thinking using the tools I had available to me. The tool, the Poll Daddy poll creation tool, has its limitations.
I did forget to put “none of these are cheating” as an option, because I am sure there is somebody out there who was fine with everything on the list. So consider the hard core hacker demographic excluded. You had to think something was cheating to be counted.
Also, remember that this poll asked whether people thought these things were cheating regardless of the rules of any given game. The EULA does not enter into this, this is what you felt was cheating. (Though despite saying this, there were comments that went to the EULA argument.)
The results, to my eye, fell into three categories,
- Things we see as cheating
- Things about which we have some discomfort
- Things that are mostly personal bias
The top seven most popular responses represent what a majority of respondents see as cheating today.
Hacking, for example, was a gimme. Due to the limitations of the poll interface available to me, I have no real measurement of how many people took the poll, but I am willing to bet that the hacking response was a reasonable indicator.
Did anybody see things on the list that they considered cheating, but hacking was not among them? Please answer in the comments if you did.
So a majority of respondents seem to agree that hacking, botting, using exploits, and such are cheating.
Exploits as cheating is tricky, because I am going to guess that is the one on the list that almost all of us have done at one time or another. I have an instance group post here where we essentially used an exploit to finish a boss that was giving us fits.
I was also interested to see that paid power leveling is considered cheating by more people than buying a character outright.
In the middle are three items that didn’t get a vote from the majority, but got enough votes to stand out from the bottom group. They seem, to me, to strike the chord of “fairness.”
Sanctioned RMT, in which the game company will sell you in-game items via some mechanism, is still a sore subject with many. It smacks of money replacing skill or dedication to some. (And then there is Darren and that horse.) I am a bit surprised that this isn’t higher, but I am going to guess that there is a group out there that doesn’t care either way, which about sums up my own view.
Automation of simple tasks surprised me a bit, given that so many games (e.g. WoW, EQ2, LOTRO) have built-in macro languages that allow you to do this. In addition, simple automation, such as picking up a fumbled sword, has been allowed automation in most MUDs I have played when almost everything else on this list was considered cheating. I should probably allow for lack of clarity in my definition on this one. If somebody selected this as cheating and wants to expand on that choice, I would welcome the comment.
Multi-play, multi-boxing, or running multiple accounts feels like cheating if you came from the right background, especially MUDs. It also carries the same stigma as sanctioned RMT, where those with the money to afford a good computer and multiple accounts win out over the average player.
Then we are left with the final seven results.
Information from the web, which I broke into three categories because in my own gaming history they each became legitimate in their own time frame. But they all represent the same thing, the free flow of game information.
Power leveling and twinking probably fall under the category of “we’ve all done it.” What, you’ve never given a drop to an alt or had a higher level friend help you for a bit? Neither were ever really cheating any place I played. What probably annoys us is when some people go to extremes, like the guy in the PUG who rolls “need” on a blue BOE drop because “he has an alt” or the level 19 in the battleground wearing all blues with enchants on every possible piece of equipment.
And then there is the free time question, which I included only because it comes up in the fairness debate on sanctioned RMT. I don’t have much free time, but I have money, let me use what I have. It was suggested that if I included free time then I should have also included things like a better internet connection or a better computer/video card as choices as well. But I rarely ever see those as part of the sanction RMT debate while off-setting the advantages of people with lots of free time is a cornerstone of the pro-RMT argument.
And, finally, other. There were only two things put in the “other” box.
The first was Third Party Chat, which was a throw-back item from a friend to remind me that there was a time when talking to other players in-game via a third-party chat program like ICQ was considered cheating. It was immersion breaking. But group chat worked world-wide, and then things like guild chat came into games and it started to seem a bit silly. But I installed ICQ years back (I have a six digit account number… I think if you sign up now they are eight or nine digits) to chat with people who were in game but out of touch.
And the second was twinking, but specifically twinking in WoW battlegrounds, and only until patch 3.2 comes out at which point battlegrounds will award experience and there will be much QQ’ing by the battleground twink community.
My Own Votes
I picked everything in the top group except the purchase of characters. I find that one to be pretty self-enforcing. And I also picked twinking, though in my mind I was voting against excessive twinking, so I couldn’t even keep to my own definitions.
Aside from paid power leveling and hacking, I have been complicit in some way with every other item on the list. I either did it myself or somebody I knew well in-game did it where it was a violation of the terms of service and I not only did not turn them in, but I also benefited directly or indirectly in some way.
Some day I will write a tell-all series of posts which will illustrate how naive people (including myself) have been, how most of the time these things either sucked the joy out of a game or lead to behavior that left the people involved no better off than before they started, or turned out to be huge wastes of time or money.
There will be tragedy and stupidity with a good dose of comedy and the occasional victory over a flawed or broken system. I just have to wait until the statute of limitations runs out. What is the forgiveness period on an MMO EULA? Never?
Did the poll reflect your own views? Did you vote? When you look at the results do you feel a sense of satisfaction or outrage? Do you have any cheating related confessions?