A couple of recent experiences have got me thinking about cheating in games. Is cheating in games even immoral, it is after all only a game? Can developers turn normal behaviour into cheating just by labelling it an exploit? What if cheating doesn't impact on other players in a negative way - is it still wrong. What about the old adage : "It's only cheating if you get caught"? What if everybody is doing it? Is it even possible to meaningfully cheat in a single player game?
I am no moral philosopher but I guess that every one has to form their own answer to questions like these. I did try to put together some sample scenarios though to get me (and you) thinking about the "ethics" of gaming. Feel free to suggest other morally ambiguous scenarios please.
1. You have got to the last level of a single player shooter but you can't overcome the end boss. You find a God-Mode cheat on Google that allows you to kill the boss and see the end of the game. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
2. The same game as above, the same boss and the same cheat. The difference this time is that the game also has a multi player component and finishing the single player campaign unlocks special abilities in the multi player game. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
3. Another multiplayer shooter but this time the special abilities are unlocked by completing achievements in game. For example getting 100 headshots unlocks a special sniper rifle. You haven't time to play the game a lot but you would sure love to try out that fancy sniper rifle. A friend directs you to a progresion server where you can ulock every achievement in the game by typing in a special code. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
4. A player versus environment mmmo game with a low level cap (like Guild Wars). You are invited to play with a friend who is already at the level cap but it will take you about a month to catch up with them. You friend offers to power level you in a day or two by grouping with you and hiding you in a corner while he kills mobs that are much higher in level than you are. Would you do it? Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
5. Another PVE MMO this time you are levelling up an alt. THere are a number of tough low level instances you need to complete in order to get all your characters skills. A high level guild mate offers to boost you through those instances.Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
6. You are in a raiding focussed end game guild and here is a gateway instance that must be run about 40 times in order to for every member to get access to raiding proper. The instance is long and boring but you can cut the time in half by jumping off a stairway near the beginning and bypassing a lot of trash mobs. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
7. Same game same scenario as above expcet that a post from the game developers says that they think that jumping off the stairs is an exploit. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
8. Another PVE MMO another end game raiding guild. A patch has the unwanted side effect of disablling the raid lockout timer allowing instances to be raided again and again in quick succession. The Devs have announced that this is a bug but that it will take at least 2 weeks to get a new patch ready. Other's in your guild have proposed that you run raids repeatedly over the intervening period in order to get every one geared up in record time. Do you feel it is wrong? Would you Do it?
My own answers on a scale of Yes (Y), No(N), Maybe(M)
3. M, Y
5. N, Y
6. N, Y
7. M, M
8. M, M