Here’s a question for all you seasoned gamers out there: In the world of videogaming, where are the hypothetical “lines in the sand” with respect to sportsmanship and fair play? In other words, what does (or does not) constitute, well, cheating? See, it’s a lot easier to figure out these sorts of things when it comes to actual sports, with actual rules, and actual referees who will rain down hell upon you should you spit upon their shoes after they make a call that was “totally bogus.” The rules are written, sometimes in tomes so thick that they are extremely hazardous to one’s back and/or toes, and there are always plenty of other players, coaches, and mobs of angry parents who are all too willing to enforce them should there be an infraction.
In the world of videogames, on the other hand, it’s kind of hard to break the “rules.” For one thing, there’s a certain amount of flexibility in virtual gameplay. It’s just you and your console, after all, so if you do the little things out of order, or spend hours doing side quests to level up your characters, no one is going to cry foul. For another thing, there’s the question of programming. If the game is programmed so that you can’t beat a certain boss until you find a certain object and obtain a certain power up, well then, you won’t be beating that boss for a while. Unless you’re a bona fide hacker, there’s pretty much no getting around that.
See, in videogames, I have found that cheating really isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you know. The honest gamer will progress through the levels of a game at a reasonable pace, figuring out what to do moment by moment as he moves from one stage to the next. He has no one else to help him, and he relies only on his own knowledge and ingenuity to win the game. He is a shining example to us all. And, more often than not, he is the reason the rest of us can cheat in the first place.
I am referring, of course, to our friendly neighborhood FAQ writers. A few hardy and industrious souls slave their way through a tough game, learning secrets and locating hidden objects as they go. Then, they write everything down, step by step, and post it to the Internet for all to use. Thanks to these gaming pioneers, the rest of us need never play a game honestly again.
So, in an age where Web sites like GameFAQs are the norm, and even the serious gamers periodically consult walkthroughs for hints, have the standards for cheating changed? Is it now acceptable to turn to an FAQ when you get stuck, as long as you don’t abuse the privilege? Or are such things still taboo among the more advanced players, while special dispensations are handed out to novices like golf handicaps?
I ask, partially out of curiosity, partially out of a lingering sense of guilt. At the moment, my preferred genre of choice is of the adventure/puzzle persuasion. These types of games lend themselves particularly well to situations where it’s easy to get…stuck. Without naming names, I’ll just say that the recent game series I have been playing is chock full of puzzles, puns, and primates. (Yes, you heard that right.) These games have been a lot of fun, which is why I’ve played three of them in fairly rapid succession. However, sometimes, I am just honestly not sure what I am supposed to do next. I do ask Mike first (which I consider to be a lesser form of cheating), but if he’s stumped as well, then I have no recourse but the Internet.
Of course, since I’m (relatively) honest, I have to admit that there probably are always ways to get past these unfortunate stopping points without cheating. You’d just have to be really methodical about it, and frankly, I don’t have the patience. It would involve wandering all over the Tri-Island area, pointing and clicking every little thing, and listening to Guybr…ahem, the “main character”…spout off some random, mildly entertaining, and possibly lengthy spiel about it before moving on and trying the next thing. Trust me, after hearing the twentieth iteration of, “No, I can’t use that in here!” I was more than ready to thrust aside my ethical qualms in favor of a quick resolution.
So, my question is: How grave a gaming sin have I committed? Are we talking “virtuous pagan-level hell” here, or am I headed for the place reserved for the evil and the treacherous? Am I merely committing the virtual equivalent of a white lie, or have I effectively perjured myself in the eyes of the gaming gods?!? Are they even now about to smite me with their….
Oh, wait. Oops. I’m a casual gamer, and such things do not concern me. Right. Haha! False alarm, everyone! You may now return to your regularly scheduled activities. As for me, I’ve got a hot date with a walkthrough and a bunch of monkeys. And oh, what fun we shall have….