There are often arguments made that multiplayer gaming on the PC is an exercise in futility. These people claim that cheating is commonplace and it’s hard to get a game where someone doesn’t have a distinct advantage over you. There are aimbots for shooters. People can straight up hack the game, or mod it in a way that gives them godlike powers over you. It’s depressing. But it makes me think. What level of cheating are you comfortable with? Does it vary if you’re not the one cheating?

In a multiplayer setting it’s easy to say “No cheating whatsoever!” but I’ve got friends, at least one of whom you listen to on a weekly basis on our podcast, who use a XIM when playing Call of Duty on the PlayStation. That gives him a clear advantage over everyone on the console playing the same game with their controller … but that’s fine, and easily rationalized, because a bunch of people do the same thing. Now, Alex might disagree that this is considered cheating, but it’s a clear advantage and that’s hard to argue with.

So is the justification that cheating is okay only if it’s leveling the playing field? If it is, it drags us down the path of doping in competitive sports and how the only way to actually compete is to participate in the corruption.

There’s another friend of mine that I’ve known for ~20 years or so. Every game we played in college and after, he used a Game Genie on or some variation thereof. These were all single player games, and he enjoyed them more when the challenge was minimal. I can only assume he got a thrill out of being invincible and powerful … which if you apply that mindset to the multiplayer game conundrum it makes sense.

You get these people who aren’t good at the game, like me, who really hate to lose … who look for ways to improve, and there’s an easy option. You install this little app and it makes your accuracy quadruple. Suddenly you’re killing people like crazy, your friends think you’re awesome, you’re winning all the time, and life is great. Until you get banned.

So that’s obviously unacceptable, but what if there’s a way to cheat … where it brings your skill level up to those of the people you play with? What if instead of a quadrupling of your hit-accuracy it’s a 50% increase and you’re just a bit more effective? Now you’re more competitive, you’re playing on a level similar to those you’re going up against … what about that?

I personally fall on the “nobody should have a competitive advantage whatsoever, no matter what” side of the debate. I’m a hard-liner. If I’m playing on a console and the console doesn’t allow mouse and keyboard, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy a $150 device to do so. If I’m playing in GTA and people are flying a 4 wheeler killing people with 80% accuracy rockets … that’s not right and shouldn’t be allowed. Any modification of your abilities in a game where other people are involved should be banned.

That’s my take. It’s a gradient, so you probably don’t agree with me 100% but it’s worth thinking about. Where do you draw the line? Do you cheat on single player games? Do you give yourself a competitive advantage in multiplayer games? Do you pay to win when given the opportunity?