I still remember the first time I experienced cheating. I was in kindergarten and playing a dinosaur-themed version of checkers with a classmate named Braden. The game started out well enough; we moved our checker pieces- delightfully modeled as rubber T-Rexes- across the iconic grid, each space colored to look like rock and lava. This was back when dinosaurs and the floor being made of lava were the two coolest things that a young boy could ask for.
Then it happened.
Braden declares his T-Rex is going to do a quadruple front-flip (or “super-mega flip” as Braden called it) across the board and land on an empty space on my edge of the board, conveniently becoming a King piece in the process.
Gullible as I am, my five year-old mind knew that bull$@%! was afoot. I tried to dispute the maneuver, but Braden simply declared that those were the rules. Of course when I attempted a similar “super-mega flip”, Braden declared that I was not allowed to do that.
Not wishing for blood to be spilled over a game of checkers, I reluctantly finished the game, taking my loss in stride and avoided playing Checkers- or with Braden- ever again. I was always a Chess guy anyways.
A pleasant aspect of board games is that it is really not worth it to cheat. Cheating is typically easy to notice and has immediate and immense repercussions. You are one card falling from your sleeve away from souring friendships and alienating yourself from your gaming group. Unless big money is on the table (i.e. Poker tournaments), there is very little incentive to cheat in board games.
Growing up in the 90’s and 2000 period however, I was also an avid PC gamer during the renaissance of online shooters. Games such as Unreal Tournament, Battlefield, and Alien V.S Predator were staples of my childhood. As much as I love these games, the moment I stepped into the online realm, I encountered cheating on a level that made the super mega-flips of childhood checkers seem…well childish.
Cheating in online gaming commonly took the form of hacks, 3rd party programs that modified a player’s experience or avatar in their favor. Hacks took the form of automatic aiming, one-shot kills, and even flat-out invincibility. A player may have one or more of these hacks, ruining the game for all other players.
Sometimes, I would run across a hack that left me awestruck. One such incident happened during a match of Alien V.S Predator 2, when a player somehow managed to become invincible, invisible, move at twice the speed of other players and kill with a single strike of their spear, which they swung endlessly and was a tell-tale sign the hacker was near. On top of all that, the player found a way to duplicate himself, allowing to avatars to stalk zoom around the level, ripping the other players to shreds.
Moments like that made me walk away from the computer and go outside for some physical activity. I suppose I owe these hackers a thank you for having motivated me to start on the path to completing a marathon.
Marathon running is seeing the silver-lining in what is a tremendous problem with online gaming. The trouble with online games is that the anonymity and the fact that the group of players changes with each match, providing infinite opportunities for cheaters to have their fun implementing hacks, taunting other players, and being all-around dregs of humanity.
With board games, player groups are comparatively difficult to find and once labelled as a cheater, you will have trouble staying within these groups or maintaining friendships. Cheaters even risk confrontation because of their actions face-to-face with a man or woman potentially multiple times their size.
Today, cheating can still be found in both mediums. As long as rules exist for a game, there will be those that seek to bend or break them. As I spend more of my limited gaming time with friends as opposed to strangers, I encounter cheating less and less. Though I will never understand what motivates players to cheat, I do know that the less time I spend playing with anonymous stranger, the better my gaming experience will be, online or offline.