…or that’s how it seems.
Raph has posed a question on his blog regarding cheating…or more to the point, “What is Cheating?” He’s got a pretty good definition of it:
Cheating is, in the end, violating the spirit of the rules.
Look, we all know what cheating is when it comes to a game. If I have cards up my sleeve when I kicking Raph’s ass in poker, then I’m cheating. If I hack EQ2 to give me 150% speed buff, then I’m cheating. If I suddenly put three more tanks for my army during our Axis & Allies session while you’re not looking, then I’m cheating. So here’s a new definition for you to munch on: Cheating is the introduction of an artificial game mechanic, both internal and external, that gives one player an advantage over another player or over the game itself.
Now, is cheating a matter of perspective? No, no it is not. Most people know that they are cheating at a game and they do so because its much easier for them to cheat than it is to play fair. Is RMT cheating, i.e. when I buy gold/plat, is that cheating? By the definition above, yes…because the gold you just bought is an artificial means for you to have an advantage over the game. You didn’t earn that money by following the usual gold earning game mechanics…you went outside of the game to get that gold. You went to a third party to get that gold…so yes, you are cheating.
Are game guides like Prima, Thottbot, Allakhazam cheating? No…no they are no because you are not sidestepping a mechanic of a game. Just because you read four or five strategies on how to take down Onyxia does not help you in the act of taking her down. You still have to deal with the mechanic that the game presents to you in order to succeed. Getting information is not introducing an artificial mechanic to the game. It does not give one player an advantage over the other because all players have access to this information from various free and paid sources. The same can be said about RMT…different players can afford differing amounts of gold, and some can’t afford any at all. Having that information available to all players is key to this, because that may not have been the case back in the days of the MUD.
Power leveling…is that cheating? Well, that really depends on the means in which you do it. Are you playing a service to perform it? Are you getting a high level buddy to help you? Each of these do not introduce an artificial mechanic to the game, because somebody is still playing the game to powerlevel the character. However, if you then buy that power leveled character, then yes, you are cheating because you just went outside the game to get an advantage over the game and other players. That bought character was not leveled by you and is therefore an artificial means for you to play the game.
It’s not hard to understand what cheating is. What I think we are all finding hard is, like Raph says, fighting the urge to concede when we see it happening.