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It's Not Always Bad to Cheat

| 7 Mar 2011 16:00
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Sometimes, not playing by the rules can be the best thing you ever do.

With news of hackers, boosters, and cheaters reaching our ears on a far too regular basis, it can easy to assume that all cheating is bad. As is often the case, however, the reality is a little more complicated than that. In Issue 295 of The Escapist, Brian Campbell examines why people choose to cheat, what it can add to the games we play, and what it can take away.

We've all come across those puzzles we can't seem to solve or those spots where we just get completely stuck. Maybe we missed a clue somewhere, or we're lacking experience, or maybe we're just looking at the problem the wrong way. We need a walkthrough. (Yeah, walkthroughs are a kind of cheat. It's that soft, winked-at cheating, like when everyone in science lab copied the answers of the smartest kid in the group, but let's be honest: Cheaters.)

My first experience being hopelessly lost was with The Legend of Zelda (NES). I was a young kid, and I lost the manual, as many of us did. Now, I'm standing in the middle of the woods looking for, well ... I managed to find a sword, but then what? So I found a hint guide. Suddenly, I was moving forward, beating dungeons and collecting untold riches. I was also learning how to think in this type of game. It hadn't even occurred to me before to draw a map! I had no perspective on this type of game, and I needed help building one.

That's all a hint is, isn't it? Recognizing that we're just not looking at this the right way, and asking for help to see it differently. Not only is the current problem solved, but we also gain new knowledge that will help us in similar spots in the future. In my case, fast forward a few years, and the strategies I'd learned were helping me with other, harder game puzzles like those in the PC puzzler Myst. I'd been made a better gamer and thinker by cheating a little.

Not every instance of cheating is positive, of course; you can often strip all the fun out of a game by cheating too much. Once you realize that though, it's not too hard to get it back in check. You can read more about it in Campbell's article, "Sometimes, I'm a Cheater."

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