Thursday, April 03, 2014

Revisiting the ethics of cheating in single player games.

The rise of F2P games with in app purchases has introduced a new twist to the ethics of cheating in single player games.

Life used to be simpler. Pretty much everyone agreed that cheating in multi-player games was  despicable, interfering as it does with the enjoyment and achievements of others. There was no ethical issue however about using cheats in a single player game. The only person affected was yourself and while many might contend that cheating diminishes the pleasure of a game by removing challenge plenty of others felt that cheats or god modes gave them more control over their gaming experience. The point was that no one else was affected but the player who choose to use cheats.

Today however a huge number of single player games especially in the mobile space use a free to play business model with in app purchases. Surprise, surprise, cheating has become a thing in such games and tools have become available for many popular titles that will allow you to progress without spending real money (no I am not going to provide links).

Yes these are single player games and one player cheating privately does not interfere with others enjoyment (I am assuming here that the cheats have the good sense not to post evidence of their crimes to global leader boards). Nevertheless the ethical situation has changed. When you cheat in an F2P game you are depriving the developer of income. I am a not a lawyer but I imagine the legal system would  treat the acquisition of a digital sword or suit of armour without paying for it  exactly the same way it treats the illegal acquisition of digital games, movies and music. Now the law can sometimes be an ass particularly when it comes to copyright but the ethical issue here seems clear cut to me. Someone developed a game and let you play it for free in the hope that you would pay them real money later for upgrades. Taking those upgrades without paying for them clearly hurts the developer and is theft.

I have seen promoters of such cheating justify their actions in on-line discussions. Usually they complain about the greediness of the developers and point out the ridiculous prices of items needed to progress in the game. Now I also baulk at the ridiculous amount of money that committed players have to spend in many of these games and I have grave misgivings about the freemium model in general but the remedy here is clear. If you do not like a games monetisation model then do not play the game.

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