Cheating in FPS Games – Why Do Players Cheat and What Can Be Done?

Chances are, at some point or another you’ve run afoul of someone cheating in a FPS game. You can be having a great game, whether that’s finding the perfect loot for your loadout in Fortnite or having your strategy come together just right in Overwatch. Then, your game gets derailed as a player with superhuman abilities annihilates your team. It is frustrating, and often it’s down to people cheating in FPS games. Cheating is a problem in most online games, although the scale of the problem can vary. So why exactly do players do this?

The easy answer would be to win. Nobody likes to lose, but most players don’t choose to go to extreme lengths to win. They’ll take a look at some guides, maybe in some games try to fix their settings, or look at how the best players of a game like CS: GO perform themselves for tips. Others though, type ‘X game cheats’ into Google and proceed to pay a little bit for access to an aimbot.

Taking a slight advantage in a single-player game that affects no one gets this type of reaction of players. So what about those who cheat in a way that ruins everyone’s fun? From the outside, it seems pointless. Letting a program rack up kills for you isn’t fun like playing the game yourself is. Any achievement is hollow. So….

Why Do People Cheat in FPS Games?

When you’re trying to figure out why players cheat in FPS games, you have two things to consider.

The first is the simple reason why they cheat. This is the rationale that they’ll give when questioned on it and what they use mainly as an excuse. Beyond that, the psychology that drives players to cheating in FPS can tell us a lot more than players might consciously be able to express. However, on the surface level, why do players start to cheat?

It Can be Fun

The simple explanation is for fun. Cheats have always been fun, especially if they involve giving every character a giant head. These harmless cheats aren’t what we’re talking about here though. Cheating to get a bit of enjoyment out of a single-player experience is fine, cheating against other players can actively ruin the experience of a lot of other people. So where’s the fun in that?

That fun might come from winning matches in games where the cheater is not at all skilled. It is fun to win and can be fun to know that you’ve won even if you haven’t actually earnt it. When cheaters have explained themselves though, there have been a few other explanations.

Leveling the Playing Field and Trolling

Trolling is a common excuse. Just doing it for the fun of annoying people. This is irritating behavior wherever you find it online. With cheating in FPS games though, trolling is going to come from spite or cynicism. Either they’re trolling to actively annoy the community of a game, or trolling because they’ve been beaten by cheaters too often themselves. Being beaten too many times by someone cheating in a FPS game might be enough to convince players to try out cheating software themselves.

Whether it is to win the game or just out of an empty feeling that the game is unwinnable anyway, cheating essentially lets the player put their own fun over the fun of everyone else who owns the game. So what leads to that disconnect? Why the lack of guilt in taking pleasure in other’s misfortune?

Why Do Players Cheat and What Can Be Done?

Photo by Alex Haney

The Psychology of Cheating in FPS Games

Since most people who use cheats in FPS games give a variety of different reasons, it is helpful to look at the psychology that actually pushes players to use cheats. When looking at this, studies have found that people see cheating in two ways. There is small bending of the rules that most people do fairly often and don’t feel too bad about.

This can escalate into larger cheating, in any area of life, which the vast majority of the population recognizes as completely unfair. However, the first type of cheating can make it easier to progress into the second. This is where serial cheating in FPS comes from. They broke the rules in a small way out of curiosity or frustration once, but it then became a regular thing.

Once a player has tried cheating once, doing so again can become a risk/reward thing. If they had a lot of fun cheating for the reasons above and faced no consequences, they’re more likely to do it again. Without any risk to punish cheaters, this can progress into cheating in FPS games whenever they play.

On top of this basic understanding of why people cheat, you have to consider the anonymity of people online. People have shown a greater tendency for bad behavior when they’re going to be anonymous. Online games provide a space to cheat with anonymity, it’s also part of the reason behind so many toxic players. The anonymity lowers the risk of something bad happening for cheating.

All this can make a player who cheats at a game once from frustration at other cheaters or boredom much more likely to continue to cheat in FPS games long term. So what’s the remedy here?

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What Can Be Done About Cheating a FPS Game?

Anonymous online players will, one way or another, try out cheating eventually. If a game is a success, then a large enough player base is going to guarantee that someone tries to cheat. So what can be done to stop cheating in FPS games? There is the option of trying to avoid cheating from being physically possible or trying to address the risk-reward factor.

Trying to prevent cheats being possible isn’t really a permanent solution. The culture of modding games, mainly single-player, has made players quite skilled at producing these mods. They will eventually be distributed. While developers should actively peruse those sharing cheating tools online, it would be a difficult game of whack-a-mole to get them all. Games that work on ways to detect players using cheats and punish have a lot more success in rectifying the reasons why people cheat.

Can Cheating in FPS Games Be Stomped Out?

Banning players permanently from playing the game when they cheat puts a big risk on the behavior. It becomes less likely that a player is going to break those rules in the future, with a higher risk to the behavior than a reward. Removing the anonymity of players who cheat can also have a positive effect. It takes away that sense of untouchability with etiquette online that drives many people to behavior like cheating, which they otherwise wouldn’t do.

This isn’t going to stop cheating in FPS games forever. Some players will still see the fun of cheating as a greater reward than a ban from a game they might not have much interest in. Hard bans can punish players for cheating, but a small number of cheaters will likely continue to do so until they get banned. It might not be possible to eliminate cheating in FPS games overall. However, the right punishments and measures can help to cut it down to a manageable size. A game’s community that feels under siege by cheating just encourages more cheating. Whereas a game that actively punishes and peruses cheaters are going to have a more manageable problem.

If we look at the risk factor, pillorying cheaters publicly can be a very cruel bot effective way. We do know how the “mob” punishes people in the online world, if the same is done to cheaters self-censorship will kick in and people will be afraid to cheat because of the consequence.

Read next: The never-ending fight in tackling players’ toxic behavior