“Cheating” In Single-Player Games

I don’t cheat in games. While we are being honest, I have looked into buying modded controllers and what exactly it entails, but I have never jumped into the space of cheaters, pirates and loot-farmers. I love the games, and there is mostly no point to breaking a game just to be good at it. Of course, we could talk about cheaters in multiplayer games for as long as they exist; they ruin the fun for everyone. What I want to talk about is the struggle of “cheating” in single-player games and if that even exists.

Gaining Control

If you have ever played online (Call of Duty, PUBG, anything) you have probably heard conversation covering:

  1. Someone’s mother and her sexual escapades.
  2. Puberty taking its toll on an unsuspecting youth.
  3. Another player (typically a top-performer) being called a modder.

The latter of the list is what matters. Modified equipment can be easily purchased thanks to online availability. This isn’t bad per say; it completely changes the dynamic of the game. For multi-player it isn’t fair, but for single-player it becomes a matter of preference. Granted, mods that do things like push a button quickly could alter the gameplay a bit. The extent of damage this can do would be at most unlocking achievements that the player didn’t rightfully earn; however, with all of my time gaming I can readily think of no achievements that require rapid button presses.

Things like GameSharks and Action Replay cards fit into this category, too. As you start employing more drastic measures of changing the game at it’s very core, you begin to lose the magic. Getting high-level or Shiny Pokémon loses its charm when they are handed to you because you literally broke the game into doing so.

“Witch” Choices Matter

If you’ve read my articles before, you know I reference The Witcher 3 a lot (it’s really freaking good). In the case of “cheating,” The Witcher is a game that follows a different instance for players. The Witcher, like many other choice-driven narrative games, is a game where every choice matters. Even the sequence of exploration versus linear quest following matters. I remember completing a quest in what I thought was the best way by allowing a character to live, only to look up the possibilities to see that my actions could have fared way, way differently.

Did I do something wrong? No, I’m finally doing something right. The Witcher, Infamous, Mass Effect, Divinity: Original Sin and so many more games bend the outcomes to the choices of the player. Growing up, I simply didn’t appreciate this angle at all. I remember looking up the ‘right’ inputs throughout my time playing Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic. I wanted to be a ‘good’ guy, and much like the mindless Jedi, I was following a form that required no personality but the complete copy/paste of other people.

Is it “cheating” in single-player games to get your desired outcome by looking up inputs? The mature gamer in me says so. Games, like other forms of art, don’t have to give us the output we expect. This means that as people taking in art influenced by our choices we have to be willing to make choices. All of the wonder of exploring a medium that is still being developed, one where options are presented to the audience on a personal level, is completely lost when the player’s choice is to go find someone else’s input, direction, and thinking rather than jumping for themselves.

Too Many Choices

Obviously it is frustrating to see a game built around decisions where choices don’t matter in the end. This type design makes the player feel led on to a end that isn’t worth their emotion and thought. Why make choices if the end is predetermined?

Choices that are too black-and-white give the player uninspired options to be good or evil. There are a number of games that spring to mind where I could pivot my alliance by a pretty standard kill-or-let-live scenario. While this makes the choices easy, it does hold back the complexity of evil and good, making it feel like “bad” and “good” characters are easy to identify.

I can’t say I’m perfect. I’m still tempted to see if my Geralt is on the path to being a good father. I look up quests (after I complete them) to see what the outcome could’ve been, but I won’t reload; I’ve made my bed, and now my Witcher must sleep in it. Whether it is saving the galaxy the “right” way, being a “bad” Witcher, or making choices that are “what you would do”. With games reflecting more on the player and their choices, “cheating” in single-player games is as simple as it is in multiplayer; it saturates the art of video games with entitlement and ruins the experience.

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