“I hate to have to cheat…but it feels better when I sneak.” - Ray Parker Jr.
The world of gaming has certainly become more complicated. By complicated, I mean a little dangerous. When I say this, I don’t mean it in the same way as the media; which, for example, would try and convince you it’s dangerous. I don't believe GTA will make you violent. I don’t believe kids murder their parents because of Call of Duty. However, there’s no doubt we’ve moved away from the simple days of telling your significant other that you’re “going to play some games,” and she knew that consisted of a 16-bit romp in Techmo Super Bowl. Now, with technology spurring new innovations in gaming (allowing for the creation of virtual worlds and identities), it seems that one side effect (some might call negative side effect) has arisen.
I’m talking about virtual cheating.
This is nothing new to the online world, and its roots stem further back than just video games. Since people used their first 56k modems to connect to AOL, they’ve been using it to cheat. Only now (with the explosion of the online gaming community over the last decade) has a light been shown on this kind of thing creeping into video games.
I’ll give you a little background on what led to this article today, coming from my personal life.
Late one night, as my wife and I browsed the Netflix queue, I came upon a 2010 documentary that caught my interest. It was entitled Life 2.0 (directed by Jason Spingarn-Koff). Now, right off the bat, I went into full pitch mode. I was familiar with Second Life (the subject of the docu-peice) and started explaining to my wife what an innovative concept this game was: creating a virtual world where you can connect with other people (much like a World of Warcraft or Sims) that provides an escape from the rigors of the outside world, for a brief time. Her response was less than enthusiastic, but she agreed to watch, as she said I’d “peaked her curiosity.” I also contribute it to the fact that we had run out of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy episodes. She did, however, make it clear she thought it was a weird concept for people to live out their lives online, interacting with others rather than their own friends and family (more specifically, their own spouses). I assured her that this wasn’t the case and that my understanding was that Second Life wasn’t about that. I was confident in my argument that she was making an unfair, blanket assumption and, upon viewing the documentary, my beliefs would be vindicated.
We start the movie and the first story features a couple whose avatars are secret lovers, carrying on an online affair behind their spouses back.
My argument is sunk before we even got out of the gate! Now, of course the documentary focuses on other aspects of people’s lives, and I’m aware that Second Life isn’t this evil force intent on driving the divorce rate through the roof. However, I do believe the points raised do translate to other facets of gaming. These days, gaming interactions are much more personal (especially with the advent of the online element).
So, this raises the question: Can you really cheat in a video game?
As I type that sentence, I can almost hear the thunderous sound of many angry readers banging their keyboards in response, furiously typing things like CHEATING IS CHEATING or OF COURSE IT’S THE SAME YOU DUMB DOUCHE-COCK.
I’ll get back to this in a minute.
First, I think this is one of those cause and effect scenarios. We’ve done several articles recently on feminism in gaming and the role of the female game character. In doing so, we highlight many aspect of how the fairer sex is represented in our industry. Frankly, it’s a man’s world, and our game design reflects that. Now, of course I honor the contributions of our gaming Sisters out there, who enjoy the hobby as much as we do. I sometimes wonder, however, how they feel about the way in which their gender is represented. Let’s face it; Lara Croft is never going to have less than a C cup, and GTA will almost always feature some piece-of-ass eye candy on the cover. Even back in the golden era of the arcade, pinball machines would use the sex appeal of a buxom broad to lure you in that direction, hoping you’ll feed that machine your quarters. I’m sure this is something the female gamer just overlooks, but I can’t image the non-gaming female is as quick to do so.
Be honest; how many of you out there have visited the strip club in GTA V recently, with one eye on the lap dance and one eye on the door, ready to pull the plug if your wife walks by. None of you? No hands raised? Sure…if you say so.
So back to the topic at hand, can you cheat in a video game?
Ultimately, this boils down to, as anything else in life, where do you draw the line? Some people download music online illegally, some people don’t.
We find a stronger female presence in gaming more and more these days. Women seem to embrace the gaming culture now more than ever before. Your wife or girlfriend may not believe this, but not every gamer of the female persuasion is a filthy whore trying to steal their man online. Some of them might just want to play Halo or go raiding in World of Warcraft (although female armor in that game seems to require much less material…go figure). There are also those couples who game online together…and even have online counterparts that they maintain a relationship with. Just because this is too weird for you, does that make it wrong for them? There are those that see online interactions (be it in video games, online chat rooms or whatever) as an extension of the real world. Others put up a wall and say, “This is fantasy; it’s not reality.” Therefore, to them, those kinds of things don’t translate into real-world consequences.
No matter which line you drawn in the sand or what side of this argument you fall on, finding a compass to navigate the issue isn’t hard at all. If you find your activities are done in the open light, without fear of reprisal…then you’re probably not doing anything wrong (at least in your own mind). It’s only when we seek to do things in secret and hide the truth from someone do things tend to get a little messy.
My attitude…life is short. Be honest with yourself and get what you want out of it. In the end, if you find that what you want isn’t what you already have…is that really a video game’s fault?