Cheating is a big problem for video games. I have been playing for over 35 years. Of that, I have over 20 years of experience with multiplayer games. For me, someone that doesn’t play by the rules ruins a round of CSGO, Valorant, Call of Duty, or PUBG.
In this post, we explore the question of why people use cheats in the first place. Cheating in video games is no different than cheating in classic sports in the form of doping. Furthermore, cheating very often has real consequences. So why do players do this?
Video game players cheat for social, psychological, or financial reasons. A cheater always has his benefit in mind and does not think about others’ consequences, for example, other players, game producers, or esport organizers. As a result, cheat development has become a separate part of the gaming industry.
Cheating exists in online gaming because it involves people – it’s not about the game. It’s about the people in the game, their psychology, and their intent.
By knowing why cheaters cheat, you can be better prepared to handle all kinds of situations involving cheating.
Let’s look into the minds of cheaters.
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Note: This article was written in English. Translations into other languages may not provide the same linguistic quality. We apologize for grammatical and semantic errors.
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What Psychological Processes Run in the Head of a Cheater?
Let’s look closely at some of the main psychological reasons why someone would cheat in a game.
We know that some players use cheats to deal with the anger they have built up against other players. Some use cheats specifically because they want the thrill of victory, but don’t want to risk being defeated by others in a fair game.
Some people cheat because they have a history of gambling addiction or similar compulsive behavior and feel compelled to continue their actions even though it’s hurting them in real life. But, at least here, cheating lets them avoid feeling like a loser when they can still live out their fantasy through gaming.
Some people try to justify cheating because they claim to be playing a game as a hobby. They think that, in this case, using cheats is supposedly okay because you aren’t trying to win the game seriously and are treating the game more like a diversion. In other words, gaming becomes less about playing well and more about having fun while you cheat your way through.
The subconscious is always trying to assert itself in our actions. When we don’t consciously acknowledge the feeling or thoughts that cause it, it will find ways to express itself in other more socially acceptable ways – like through cheating in gaming.
Why do you think cheaters choose certain kinds of games or characters? They are making a statement, whether they know it or not.
By cheating in FPS games – games with an enemy – cheater express anger and hostility towards others without admitting it. They use the violence in the game as a justification for their feelings. But this is not the only psychological reason why people resort to illicit aids. Just like in any sport, esports careers these days mean a lot of pressure and high stakes. And with more people watching and playing than ever before, it’s also come to mean a lot of money.
Now, esports is starting to attract sponsors and investors willing to put a lot of money into games, especially as prize pools continue to grow bigger.
This puts pressure on the player to cheat and get away with it so he can win, regardless of whether his skill level is good enough or not. Of course, ‘clean’ players can hardly understand this behavior. The chances of getting caught in eSports and losing everything is 99%. Every game is broadcast live, and most final events are held at a venue with provided hardware and software.
It takes a lot of criminal energy to cheat on such occasions.
So, how do people rationalize cheating? Let’s explore.
Cheating is a Win-Situation for the Cheater
In the cheater’s mind, cheating is like an alternate reality where they can still be the winner even when they are a loser.
When you play a game with no risk whatsoever to using cheats, you can see it like a fantasyland where everything is possible. You don’t have to worry about losing real money, and you can act out any way you want. In addition, there is no social stigma or punishment for your actions (except getting caught by others), so you don’t have to worry about letting anyone down or disappointing anyone else.
In this alternate reality, you are the king of your domain and how you want to be. You can be like a God where you have absolute power over others. The cheater loves the sensation of being able to manipulate and control others without any consequences.
As long as a cheater is winning in this fantasyland, it doesn’t matter how much they might get bullied or ridiculed by others in the real world. It’s all about the thrill of victory for him.
Cheating can Quickly go From Testing to Habit
In the beginning, cheaters will only cheat to see how good they can be at the game with some added help. They want to know if they can get away with it, and once they do and win, they are off to the races. Cheating quickly becomes an addiction for them because of how much joy it gives them in winning. People start to play more games and win more often because of their illicit aid. This reinforces their feeling that cheating is making them better at the game, which makes them happier in life as a whole.
Cheating can be Just Fun
It’s like when you were a kid. You annoy someone and enjoy it when your action shows an effect. The more your counterpart is annoyed, the funnier it is and makes you go on and on. Some cheaters act the same way. They are like “little kids” who get their jollies by teasing others. They enjoy the feeling of success and power when they hurt others and watch them suffer.
Cheating is like a drug to them because it causes that type of pleasure response in their brains. They will eventually develop a tolerance level for this high, though, where they have to cheat more often or in a more extreme way to get the same kick out of it.
Cheating for Social Reasons
All your friends play Fortnite and are super skilled. And you? No kills. Running around headless and actually, the game is no fun for you. But your friends only want to play Fornite.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could be just as good – maybe even better – with a bit of help and get the recognition of your friends back? Sometimes people feel compelled to please others. And sometimes cheating offers a solution to that.
Most cheaters cheat with their friends or know the persons well enough to trust them not to rat them out. Maybe it was a dare, or maybe there was some cash involved, but it all boils down to one thing: people want to impress their friends or social environment. People like being able to do something that others can’t, and they like to impress others.
Cheating to Beat a System
Sometimes people want to see how much they can get. They enjoy trying to beat the system. Whether they’re teachers, parents, or online game developers, people like to defy the people who are responsible for them and their lives. This often leads not only to cheating but more importantly, to break the rules in general.
Hackers who attempt well-protected computer networks, such as NASA, the Pentagon, or governments, have the same drive. They want to achieve something huge once in their lifetime.
Is this list of reasons an excuse for cheating? No, of course not. Cheating has consequences and is very bad. Many parties are harmed. Other players, the game publishers, in fact, the entire ecosystem of a video game. It’s one of the worst things you can do in a game. Unfortunately, cheaters usually do not see the other side or the result of their actions.
What Consequences do Cheaters Have to Fear?
The first consequence is that the cheater has disqualified themselves from taking part in a fair competition. They risk having their reputation damaged and having to live with their guilt for a long time. Cheating is an essentially moral issue in sports and outside sports, as in exams, where people cheat during tests. As a rule, cheating has serious consequences for the person who does it. A loss of self-respect is very likely – at least in the long term.
Additionally, civil charges may apply if financial damages have been incurred. Finally, the cheater could also face criminal prosecution for cheating in the first degree. This would, for example, apply if they had manipulated an online game intending to obtain an unjustified advantage over other players.
I am not a lawyer, and the laws are different in every country, but it is relatively hard to hide from justice in our global world. Take South Korea, for example: Creating an aimbot can earn you a visit to jail. On the other hand, cheaters are usually very young and don’t think that convictions can affect the rest of their lives at a young age. Conflict with the law can also affect social connections, such as with friends or even family.
Here is a well-known cheating case and its consequences: FaZe Clan Streamer was permanently banned from Fortnite.
So cheating can end careers. In many cases, of course, cheating has no consequences. Players hide their IPs behind VPN connections or don’t mind if they can’t continue playing a game due to a temporary or permanent ban. It is effortless to create a new account or try the next game.
The risk of breaking the law with a rash act and bearing the consequences for it always hovers along with the use of cheats.
The Industry of Cheats
In the end, I would like to discuss the industry behind cheats briefly. Most cheaters do not code their tools themselves but find or buy cheats on the Internet. Specialized websites cater to people who want to cheat in online games. There you can find various cheat codes for many games with instructions on how to use them.
So-called hackers make cheat codes. These software developers are not part of the game development teams but have figured out how to manipulate and even copy the game’s source code. With this knowledge, they can manipulate the game. For example, inserting a piece of code into the game’s data let you fly around in an invisible helicopter or give yourself all-powerful weapons.
This is not about peanuts. Buying a unique cheat costs several hundred dollars. But, of course, the development of cheats is also becoming more and more difficult and complex. As a result, game manufacturers are developing their defenses more and more.
For cheat developers, this means that when the effort increases, so do the price. But if you look at the size of the gaming industry, the pie is so big that cheat development, in general, will always remain attractive. Antivirus manufacturer Kaspersky has addressed this very issue in this article: Cheat or death? The secret world of malware-like cheats in video games.
The manufacturers of video games are therefore left to their own devices. Big publishers can develop reasonable anti-cheat solutions. But, unfortunately, small indie development teams can’t afford that and have to buy mass-market anti-cheat software, which quickly loses the race against new cheats.
We have looked at the level of the current anti-cheat technologies, with Valorant Vanguard as an example, in this post:
The gaming industry as a whole is growing by leaps and bounds, so the development of cheats is also finding more and more takers and remains attractive. If you’re interested in how big the gaming industry has become, take a look here:
Will cheating eventually die out? Will cheaters realize their mistakes and stop spoiling the game for others? Will hackers suddenly stop developing cheats? Will there be anti-cheat tools that detect every fraud?
Unfortunately, we have to answer all of these questions with a crystal clear ‘no.’
There is only one solution against cheats: all players have to play on sited and 24/7 monitored hardware and software. This is utopian.
In the competitive area, however, it is certainly possible.
Let’s hope that as anti-cheat tools get better and better (perhaps through artificial intelligence) that the effort to develop cheats becomes so great that it’s just not worth it anymore.
If you want to delve deeper and more scientifically into the topic, we recommend this paper: Cheating in video games – causes and some consequences.
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