Inside the Guide: Is it Cheating to Use a Walkthrough?

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Hello everyone, and welcome to “Inside the Guide,” the article that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the art of making guides for videogames. My name is Michael Gray, and I’ve written over 75 different guides, had my DNA sent into outer space, and recently, I won IGN’s FAQ-er of the Month award.

Last month, Vangie Rich wrote a column all about videogame walkthroughs. I asked her if I could write a response to her column, but she never got back to me, just like every company I’ve sent my resume to in the past six months. Well, I forgive Vangie, because I understand she’s been busy recently with a furry animal that moved into her house and has yet to be housebroken. No, not her boyfriend Michael; I’m talking about their new dog Lucy.

lucy snickers
Granted, their new dog (left) is pretty cute, but nothing can top my dog’s shining moment of cuteness (right).

But even though I don’t have official permission from Vangie, I’m going to respond to her column anyway.

Vangie wondered whether it’s “cheating” to use a walkthrough to beat a game. If we use the general definition of “cheating,” which is “doing something which gives you an unfair advantage over other people,” then, yes, using walkthroughs is cheating. If you know that Item X is located in the Fields of Luxury, you have a distinct advantage over the player who has to search the Skies of Dreams, the Hills of Hope and the Chamber of Secrets before finding Item X.

Now, the question is, who are you cheating?

In multiplayer games, it’s obvious. You’re cheating the other people who are playing the game. But if you’re playing a single-player game, then the only person you’re cheating is…yourself, because you’re not living up to your full potential. You’re selling yourself short when you say, “I’m not smart/good enough to solve this puzzle, so I have to use a guide.” Come on, readers. You can do it; just know that I believe.

Now, of course, I don’t write guides to help people cheat. I write guides to help people. There are games with tricky puzzles that are hard to solve, and trying to solve a near-impossible puzzle is no fun whatsoever (unless you enjoy that sort of challenge). And in my mind, these are the people who my guides help—the people who have trouble with one particular part of a game, so they look up the solution in my guide, and then they get back to playing the game.

Of course, a lot of the time people are too busy/lazy to explore all areas of a game or work out solutions to puzzles. Myself included. When I play Nancy Drew games, I can solve all the puzzles myself, but I don’t always feel like taking five minutes to go back to another area of the game and re-read the access code that I forgot to write down. It’s much faster for me to just go online and re-read my guide to find the information I need.

Walkthroughs are really good when it comes to saving time. How good? I’ve timed it, and it takes me about two to three times longer to beat a game by myself than it does if I’m using a guide. If you don’t believe me, just check out these two Mega Man 3 videos, courtesy of the GameCola YouTube page:

Michael Gray takes on Top Man’s stage

Nathaniel Hoover takes on Top Man’s stage

See? Nathaniel knows what he has to do ahead of time, so he’s about twice as fast as I am. And knowing what you have to do, whether you’re using a guide or just replaying a game, definitely cuts down on game time.

So…in conclusion….

  • My dog is loads cuter than Michael Ridgaway’s dog.

  • Guides are designed to help people, so I won’t call you a cheater if you’re using a guide just to find the solution to a certain problem.

  • Using a guide can really help you get through a game faster.

And that’s all I have to say about this issue now. See you next month, folks.

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About the Contributor

Michael Gray is a staff writer for GameCola, who focuses on adventure games, videos and writing videogame walkthroughs.

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