The number of hours of designing, playtesting, fixing, re-designing, re-playtesting and scribbling notes that go into game creation is mind-boggling. In a recent playtest for a real-time game, one player asked, “How do we know that the other players aren’t cheating?”
In all the hours spent creating the game (Five Minute Delivery), the question had never come up. We hadn’t written anything into the rules to safeguard everybody against cheaters in the group, and I must confess that the worry about cheaters never crossed my mind in the hundreds of hours leading up to that simple query.
And, to the player who asked that question (and anybody else worrying about cheaters in [game name here], I’ll explain my thoughts on cheating and why it’s not worth doing or worth worrying about:
- Cheating isn’t fun.
When designers create a game, one of the main things they’re trying to do is create something that is fun. When someone cheats, they’re sidestepping all the testing, designing and balancing that have been invested, and they’re missing the experience as it was intended to be. You might win the game, but all you won at was cheating, and didn’t actually even play the game! If winning is the only reason you play a game, you’re missing out on SO much fun! Click here for more about that.
- Trust is hard to regain once lost.
Whether cheating on a test, cheating on a significant other or cheating on a game, the trust factor is so shattered that rebuilding is difficult at best. You get caught cheating even one time, and friends or family won’t trust you for a long, LONG time, and will be reluctant to invite you back. It’s a hefty price to pay for gloating rights.
- Cheating proves you’re a pansy.
That’s right! Cheating proves you can’t hack it. You can’t win without cheating. You’re not good enough to succeed like everyone else. You’re too incompetent to beat someone else on equal grounds. Regardless of whether you’re ever caught or not, cheating undermines the you and your potential by bringing the game down to your level rather than rising to the level of the game.
- When you cheat, you become paranoid.
If you’re always bending the rules to win, one of the side effects is thinking everybody else is doing the same thing. You focus so much on making sure others don’t cheat that you doubt them, you’ll likely accuse them at some point, and you’re going to alienate people sooner or later.
- Cheating doesn’t make sense.
What do you get for cheating? The right to say you won? The delight of always looking over your shoulder to see who’s looking? An imaginary medal saying you outsmarted your friends in an imaginary world of goblins or cowboys? Unless you’re really involved in some shady gambling operation (which means you’re likely not reading this right now), your reward for cheating is nothing tangible or real.
It all boils down to what you get for your effort. You miss out on the fun of a game with friends and family, you risk losing trust which may or may not ever be regained, and you prove you aren’t good enough to succeed on your own. What do you get in return? NOTHING WHATSOEVER. It doesn’t make sense at all!
In our house, we don’t have a cheating rule. It’s not something we look for, and we assume everybody we invite to play games is the same way. Even if they’re not…who cares? If we win or lose, it’s no big deal and when we get up from the table, we leave the game there. We have fun PLAYING the game with each other.
So, to answer the question from the first paragraph “How do we know that the other players aren’t cheating?” We don’t. We assume people want to play a game for the fun of it and for the chance to be with other people. If someone wants to put a big black mark on themselves for the chance to say they won at something…well, then they need a lot more help than I can give them in a 736 word message.
Bottom line? If you’re someone who cheats (at games or ANYTHING in life), try playing by the rules for a while and see how much better it is. You’ll be surprised…and you’ll know you’re not a pansy.