ScreenCritics Louise explores the murky world of Steam and Cheats – and tries to understand why it’s become such big business for those involved.
If you’re a PC gamer there’s one real problem which is hard to avoid, something which has seeped into the community and is occurring more -cheating. Whether it be your favorite first person shooter, strategy game, action, adventure… anything with a multiplayer element can be corrupted by the influence of the cheat. Cheating is big business – and Valve has started to seriously crack on yet another rogue element of its Steam community.
When you first thing of cheating no part of you would expect it to become a business model, I always thought someone who made cheats did it for their own benefit and then decided just to release it into the wild (maybe that was a bit naive of me). However, at the Steam Dev Days they have informed us of the seedy, and somewhat hardcore world of cheating, and it sounds like some sort of secret cult.
The talk was led by Simon Allaey and Aarni Rautava, who discussed some of the elements which they have had to face whilst trying to tackle cheating within the Steam community. They already classified cheating as getting an unfair advantage, and point out things that are considered cheating such as exploits, automation, overlays and state manipulation. They argue that it is not just cheating within the games, they have also pointed out the issue of user reviews, and finding that people were highly rating games with hacks (aka not real people) which gave the game a good review and therefore made more players buy the game.
Whilst the classification of cheating can be interesting within itself, when it really starts to get interesting is the different tiers of cheating and how to access them. The one I already knew about was open communities, these are people who share their cheats and the knowledge of the system, it then goes into cheat publishers, who at a more private level produce the cheats and then make a profit from them. Finally, the far bigger fish, are closed communities, who claim to be invisible to the system, use private cheats, limited availability and you have to go through a test to get into the communities.
We now suddenly get into hardcore, bad ass cheating territory (or, at least, as cool as video game cheating can get) as some of these communities have demanded Skype interviews to find out who is getting into their closed community, some have requested a copy of passports so you can be tracked down, they even can make you pay a month subscription to be a part of the site. All of this has added up to a big economy, with upwards of $90 for a 6 month subscription to a cheating website, and with some websites charging $800 for a ‘undetectable’ cheat.
As if it could not get much bizarre, they estimated that a single person company could be making $750k a year from selling cheats, with a team of cheats being able to make upwards of $1.5 million- the cheating economy is estimated to be worth $100 million. These cheating companies are even legitimate, being found to pay taxes and be registered as legitimate businesses! You can cheat in a game, but you cannot cheat the tax system!
The problem is that it can be difficult to monitor the cheating community, with so many different cheats around a lot of games to use them in, there are only so many employees to try and catch the cheaters- a lot of cheats are being slipped through the net. Steam has already admitted that there is a vigilante group within the community, who are trying to catch the cheaters both within and outside of the game. My favourite vigilante of all time is this guy who created a cheat, posted fake messages saying it was great, it ended up constantly tilting the players screen, making them spawn all over the place and then being kicked out by the game , both clever and fantastic.
The Steam Anti-Cheat team are trying to tackle this issue by reducing the reward for cheating and making it a bigger risk to sell a cheat to begin with. It could be like the ‘bad sport’ system that Rockstar use, apart from it would be reporting in players who are using cheats, getting them kick out of games, getting more of a penalty for using cheats and changing rank playing- you would not be ranked with someone who is known to be in a cheat. In a way, putting all of the cheaters together in a game would be punishment within itself, it is no fun playing a game where everyone has infinite health and you can all be seen on the map. If cheating is meant to make the game more fun, put them all together, it will certainly be less fun!
There is no doubt that cheating within games is a frustrating issues, it happens on both ammeter and professional levels, it means that there is little chance of you winning and there is always that one person constantly beating you. We all have experienced cheating, some of you may have used cheats, but it was never made clear how much of a profit making business it had become, and that is quite the sting. As funny as it sounds that it is like a secret organisation and have to check who is joining their community, it is pretty sad that some gamers would be willing to pay $800 for a cheat.
So the question I ask myself is “how much would I pay for a cheat?” it’s a hard question, as I do not cheat within games to begin with. I could not pay anything liker $800, because that is ridiculous, but I cannot pinpoint how much I would pay because I would not cheat. For me, the point of playing a game is for the challenge and have fun within the online community. Cheating takes all of that away- victory feels more shallow and you isolate yourself more from the community. If anything, cheating in my opinion, makes you less of a player.
It is good that Steam have brought up the issue of multiplayer cheating, letting us know that there is a business behind it and how they are tackling it. I hope they are successful in trying to stop as much cheating as they can (as I believe it is very hard to fully stop cheating from happening). However, a part of it does come down to you as the player, and really questioning how much it is worth cheating.