View From the Road

View From the Road: Cheaters Sometimes Win

John Funk | 5 Apr 2010 21:00
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While I didn't win all of those battles, I won more of them than I lost. There's no concrete evidence to suggest that the crucial element was my opponents underestimating me, of course, but it did seem to build up a very definite pattern.

On some level, StarCraft - and games like it - are all about deception, since it's a legitimate part of any strategy. I might build up a few Roaches and throw them in a suicide attack at my Terran-playing foe, leading him to build Marauders: powerful ground units that destroy armored units like my Roaches, but which have no defense against aerial attacks, which will be the main thrust of my attack. Or, a clever opponent of mine will build his main production facilities away from his main base, causing me to believe that he has the most minor of defenses and attacking before I'm ready, only to be slaughtered by a hidden force lying in wait. All of this is part of the actual game.

But is trying to win by misrepresenting who you are part of the game, too? If I were to name my account something stereotypically "girly," would others not take me seriously because "lol girls don't play StarCraft"? If I chose the nick BoxeR (after the famous pro StarCraft player), would others think I was a fan of professional-level RTS and take me more seriously than they might have otherwise?

There's no question that the sort of thing I'd been doing was trying to tilt the field in my favor on a metagame perspective, but that doesn't mean it's cheating, per se. Competitive matchups can be won by psyching the other guy out, no matter what game (or sport) you're playing. When you think about it, it's not all that different from football linemen talking smack at each other before the ball is snapped - any edge is still an edge, as long as you're still playing the game the way it's meant to be played. If you can get the hare to believe you're a tortoise, he's got no one to blame but himself if he stops midway through to take a nap.

And yet, as much as it's logically sound to think of it that way, it still feels like I'm doing things wrong. It may simply be unavoidable: In a game based so heavily about trying to outthink and predict your opponent (to The Princess Bride-scale deductions), anything you say or do can and will be used against you. Why not turn that to your advantage?

If I'd titled this week's installment of View "Sorry, I'm Too Drunk to Write a Good Column," I bet I'd be coming off as really, really smart about now. Ah, hindsight.

John Funk drinks different beer depending on which faction he's currently playing.

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