There is a very fine line between what people consider cheating and what people consider being a skilled player taking advantage of what the game has to offer. Obviously using a “cheat device” such as an Action Replay or the infamous GameGenie is cheating but that’s not the issue here, we’re talking more about the in-game manipulation. Let me first give a few differences between cheating and taking advantage of the game’s design. There is a simple test you can run to determine if something someone is doing (or even yourself) is really cheating. Just ask yourself this simple question: “did the programmers implement this feature in the game knowing full-well that it exists or are you working outside the confines of the programmers’ intentions?” If the programmers planned for you to be able to shoot without aiming, then it IS NOT cheating. If the programmers had no intentions of allowing you to shoot without aiming and you are doing so through some special means, then it IS cheating.
How about some more specific gaming examples. I have been playing a ton of Gears of War recently so I have to use this game as my examples here, also having the voice chat is nice because I can hear other people’s opinions while they play the game. Two of the biggest complaints I here (“that’s cheap” or “quit cheating”) are in regards to Frag Tagging, sticking a grenade to someone using the grenade’s melee attack, and the use of the Lancer, close combat chainsaw. Both of these tactics are totally designed by the programmers and are not even close to the range of cheating. Considering the fact that developers demonstrated both of these tactics at various E3-type of events to promote the game is proof enough of that. Frag Tagging and Lancer usage: NOT CHEATING. There is another little tactic in Gears of War called the Rowdy Run. This is a tactic, I watched my partner do it online a few nights ago, that requires you to stand in a corner with someone next to you and you shoot at the ground while tapping the evade button. You then glitch out of the position and start running around the environment at double your normal speed. This is a technique that I guarantee was never planned or designed by the developers. Rowdy Running: CHEATING.
There are some tactics in games that are not so cut and dry though, some skills that cannot so easily be answered by asking the Programmers’ Intentions question. One very good example of this is “snaking” in Mario Kart (most notably Mario Kart DS). This is a skill that allows you to be in an almost constant state of mini-turbo. The programmers designed the game to allow you to drift around corners and gain a mini-turbo as a reward for performing the drift. “Snaking” is when a player snakes back and forth on straight-aways to obtain the mini-turbo multiple times down the road. It can be argued that this isn’t cheating simply because the game is in no way being manipulated and it is simply a skill to be learned. On the other side of the coin however is an insight into the minds of the programmers themselves. In Mario Kart DS you can unlock a mode in Time Trials that allows you to race the ghost of various programmers and attempt to beat their best times. Of the 25 some ghost racers I’ve seen, not a single programmer used the “snaking” technique. Does this mean they are unaware of this tactic and never had the “snaking” in mind or were they merely attempting to keep the tactic hidden from gamers? In the end, it really is up to your own personal interpretations, because in all honesty, if you think cheating in games is fine then that’s your interpretation.