"… people will continue to be idiots."

We were playing that game where somebody asks a question and everyone has to answer it. The rules for this game are not written down anywhere, but everyone knows them. If you're the one asking questions, the objective is to ask questions that make people uncomfortable. If you're an answerer, you're obligated to answer truthfully and pretend that it's fun. Alcohol usually helps.

I remember that my friend Mike was the asker of questions. Besides Mike and myself there was another friend of mine named Bill and one other person. I knew him at the time and considered him a friend, but his name escapes me now.

This was well before online gaming as we now know it even existed, yet the very first time I played online (and every time since) I was instantly reminded of this day, the question that was asked and the answers that were given.

"What's the one thing you would do if you knew you could get away with it, and nobody would ever find out it was you?"

This was the question Mike asked that day. His questions usually ranged from "Who would you have sex with?" to "How would you do it?" So this one was a bit of a departure.

Bill's answer was that he didn't really need to worry about that, which was true. His dad was a lawyer. There was practically no limit to the kind of trouble he could get out of. Although he kept trying to find one.

My answer was that I'd rob a bank. My thought was that if I could rob a bank, and nobody would ever know that I'd done it, then I could invest the money and be able to buy whatever I wanted for the rest of my life. Best thing was: nobody would get hurt, and banks have too much money anyway. Everybody liked my thinking on that one. Rebellious, yet humanitarian.

Then came my friend's turn, the one who's name I can no longer remember. His answer was that, if he knew he could get away with it, he'd rape a girl. No specific girl, mind you. Any girl at all. He had reasoning to support his answer, which like his name has faded from memory, but if I recall correctly it was very well thought out. In other words, he'd been planning it.

Which brings me back to online gaming. As I attempt to play the MultiplayerGameoftheWeek, I am struck by how frequently gamers will break rules, exploit bugs or generally behave like complete jerks. I've played against thousands of online gamers over the years. I tend to forget their names and everything about them in the time it takes for the next round to load, but a few stick in my mind like mahogany splinters.

One fellow, TiTTyl0vEr, had the unfortunate habit of punctuating every one of his kills with the phrase "Take that muthafuka!" This would have been amusing had it been original. Another opponent, who calls himself th3_r45t4h_d00d, spent days perhaps, playing Halo2 CTF in order to devise a scheme whereby he could grab a flag from the enemy base without even being in the room. This plan involved a carefully placed vehicle and some complex timing. It was obviously an exploit of a clipping bug, and will probably be fixed sooner or later, but it struck me for a number of reasons.

First, the amount of effort involved in cooking up this scheme seemed to me to be equal to or even perhaps exceed the amount of effort involved in assaulting the base and taking the flag the old fashioned way. Not only that, but it didn't really work all that well. My fellow defenders and I never saw him actually take the flag, but we knew immediately that it had been taken and we hunted him down and killed him before he ever made it out of the base.

It reminded me of my neighbor's method of snow removal. After the last big snow storm, he brought home a junky old snow blower from somewhere and spent literally half an hour trying to get it to start. Then, when it did fire, it worked so poorly, that he had to force it through the snow and cover each foot of ground three times to clear all of the snow. By the time he had finished clearing his sidewalk, I had shoveled my entire my driveway, washed the dishes, taken a shower and was enjoying a tasty adult beverage in front of the television, with my feet up and my girlfriend by my side, whispering tantalizing suggestions to each other as to how to spend the rest of the evening.

Like my neighbor, had th3_r45t4h_d00d not been so intent on bringing his ridiculous plan to fruition he may have actually accomplished something. But to me that's really beside the point. What struck me the most about th3_r45t4h_d00d's tactics was his explanation for them.

After the game, while we were all still in the lobby comparing scores, I asked him how he managed that trick and why he did it. He explained the mechanics of how he did it easily enough but stumbled on the why. The best explanation he could come up with was "I dunno. Because."

Not to put words into th3_r45t4h_d00d's mouth, but my take on that was that he exploited that bug because he thought he could get away with it. In other words, he knew what he would do if no one were looking, and when he thought no one was looking he did it.

My friends and I were shocked by my friend with no name's answer. It was a bomb dropped right into the middle of our placid, innocent existence, and the shockwaves are still rippling through our lives. Even more horrifying than his answer though, was his reaction to our horrified response. He was surprised. It hadn't occurred to him that we might not approve. I haven't spoken to him since.

The Internet is a pretty clear reflection of real life. I'm not the first to observe this, of course, nor will I be the last. As we do in real life, most of us do fairly innocuous things online. We play games, we wank to pr0n and we occasionally do the odd bit of work. But there are some people who believe that the anonymity of the Internet allows them to do whatever they want and get away with it. Sadly, they are often correct.

In response to the rampant violation of rules and exploitation of bugs in Halo 2, Bungie has recently announced that they will no longer tolerate asshats. I applaud them, but their measures will only be effective if those of us who do obey the rules help to enforce them. In real life as well as online, the onus is on those of us who care to pay attention and to be proactive. We must say in as clear and loud a voice as we can muster that it does not matter if anyone is paying attention or not. This is our society, our neighborhood, and there are rules. You cannot come into my neighborhood and act like an asshat. I will not allow it. I do not approve.

Maybe it won't make a difference. The Internet is a big place, and there are lots of dark corners. But I like to believe that should my friend with no name ever get the chance to act on his despicable impulse the memory of our horrified faces and our strong words will come flooding back to him. Perhaps he'll realize that whether anyone is looking or not, whether he can get away with it or not, there are some things that he cannot do because they are wrong.

Comments

Dude, what a downer. Remind me never to play "Truth" with any of your friends.

It was obviously an exploit of a clipping bug, and will probably be fixed sooner or later, but it struck me for a number of reasons.

If that's the one on Coagulation, rumor has it that Bungie has said "Yea, it works. No, we're not going to fix it." Discovered it by having it done twice to me in one game tonight. *sigh*

In real life as well as online, the onus is on those of us who care to pay attention and to be proactive. We must say in as clear and loud a voice as we can muster that it does not matter if anyone is paying attention or not. This is our society, our neighborhood, and there are rules. You cannot come into my neighborhood and act like an asshat. I will not allow it. I do not approve.

When I'm forced to be moderator guy (which happens behind the scenes more than most people would think) I often have to remind myself that I'm not being a jerk, I'm doing my best to maintain the integrity of the site and our community. Respect and integrity online is a tough standard to follow when it's so easy to blow someone off, move on or claim your words or actions meant something different. I feel pretty secure with the idea that karma is unavoidable whether you steal something from your neighbor or lash out at another human being on a forum. You just do the best you can and hope others do the same.

Great article, Fletch. However, this one was very serious, belying the title of your column.

If that is indeed a true story about your game of 'truth' then it certainly does fit this online gaming situation beautifully. There is a major difference between folks like us on this board and those who you describe in your article. When I commit an act that harms another person, I can never feel like I have gotten away with something, even if I am not actually punished.

I am not that bothered when I hear the pre-pubescent kiddies cussing or cheating, as they do not have fully developed their moral compasses. However, when it is obvious that the asshat is someone near my own age, I cannot help but fret for those who come in contact with him in real life.

I fear what google will bring to this site now that we have had the word rape on the front page.

Cheaters honestly drive me nuts. It just always got on my nerves that instead of spending time improving skills... people are willing to search for and download hacks to get some cheap kills.

I feel much better having worked up from being the 1-5 ratio guy to the 1-1 ratio guy. And now that I continue to improve, I continue to feel better and better about myself and my abilities. If I had just downloaded a hack, how much fun would that have been in the long run? I might have enjoyed the cheap kills at first... but beyond that?

I dunno... I never understood the idea of the crime with no consequences... but perhaps that's just the Buddhist in me. I'd have to agree with Fletch in the idea of the bank thing... but... rape? Yikes. Maybe it's just me, but I've never done something bad that I didn't feel bad about later... so who knows... I used to think I was a weirdo for this. Glad to see I found a nice community like this to prove that wrong ^_^

We are on the front page for "Gamers rape". Oddly enough, not even for this article.

We are on the front page for "Gamers rape". Oddly enough, not even for this article.

It's for the Coffee opinion thread, scary.

Certis wrote:
In real life as well as online, the onus is on those of us who care to pay attention and to be proactive. We must say in as clear and loud a voice as we can muster that it does not matter if anyone is paying attention or not. This is our society, our neighborhood, and there are rules. You cannot come into my neighborhood and act like an asshat. I will not allow it. I do not approve.

When I'm forced to be moderator guy (which happens behind the scenes more than most people would think) I often have to remind myself that I'm not being a jerk, I'm doing my best to maintain the integrity of the site and our community. Respect and integrity online is a tough standard to follow when it's so easy to blow someone off, move on or claim your words or actions meant something different. I feel pretty secure with the idea that karma is unavoidable whether you steal something from your neighbor or lash out at another human being on a forum. You just do the best you can and hope others do the same.

No, you're being a jerk. I have witnesses.

No, you're being a jerk. I have witnesses.

I'm witness number one.

Great article Fletch. That game you played is pretty dangerous. I know everyone's shocked at his answer, but I think if everyone of us played that game truthfully we'd hear even more bizarre and disturbing things.Absolutely no one would know.

If there was no moral code and we were free to live as gods in our own minds.. I don't believe that humans are inherently evil, but there's no denying that certain folks gravitate towards evil acts which provide intense gratification.

Back to the Halo 2 bit, I guess cheating doesn't bother me that much. I know I might swear a few times during a match (like last wednesday "those f*ckers are cheating bastards) but really, the only thing you can do is play your best. And you can be rest assured that while you are getting better, those guys you're playing are so unskilled they have to resort to that.

I've joined in the "anonymous avatar" discussion before on other boards. People have attributed it to everything - be it age, sex, maturity, etc, but there is no clear cut reason. Investment_banker_03, while completely normal and moral during 8-5, comes home and is Gamer's Most Wanted. Then again, the kid who spends all day listening to thrash metal, has "hateu" tattoed on his knuckles, is the Paladin who spends his whole game time helping others. I've known both sides, in game and out.

It is quite a psychological mystery, is The Mask.

I have a short anecdote about cheating on Halo 2. I was hesitant to share it due to the general seriousness of Fletch's post, but what the hey. I'm playing a few nights ago with members of my family and we have a round against these four guys who sounded ... well ... immature if not actually young. As they're rolling in for their first flag capture I hear one say to the other "... this time make sure you do it right ..." I'm not sure exactly what he's referring to until three members of our team watch as the flag is captured right in our view with no one on the other team in sight. Then within about 2 seconds we hear "flag scored". We couldn't believe it.

So it's our turn next and every time I'm within earshot I'm calling them cheaters and whatnot (not sure why ... out of frustration, I suppose) and three of them eventually turn to the tactic of blaming one guy in particular, each of 'em claiming that they've never played with any of the others before. I'm not sure why they chose to blame this individual (friends like these, huh Gary), but as I said earlier it was clear that at least two of them were planning this "strategy" together.

Anyway, after the game as everyone on our team is leaving "cheater" feedback on all of their 'tags, we get sort of a 'ahhh' moment. All four of the guys are in the same clan. And that clan's name is 'Got Banned'.

Article leading to many deep thoughts. Nice work!

It is quite a psychological mystery, is The Mask.

Indeed. Fletch's article sent me off through the philosophy and pychology stacks...I know I've read a really interesting study of conscience and anonymity, but my google fu is failing me at the moment.

No need to be timid, Psycho. I appreciate you sharing that story. Sounds like you did the right thing.

We have such a unique community here at GWJ, that it's easy to forget that the majority of online gamers aren't nearly as respectful, courteous or mature as the folks we encounter through this forum. It's also easy to forget the effort required of each of us to keep our little corner the way it is.

I've had this article in the works for a while, but it seemed especially pertinent now. For those of you turned off by the tone: fear not. The zany anecdotes and jokes about sex will return soon.

Exploiting bugs is one thing, but what about abusing legal tactics which some might consider cheap? For example, Moonfire spamming as a druid in pvp, or killing players 10 levels below you. Both actions are technically legal. Where does one draw the line between whats cheating and what isnt?

I think cheating is a fairly definitve line, Karrde. It is where you change the game to gain an advantage. Killing low level players really isn't on the border, as it's not changing the mechanics or design of the game. It is, perhaps, bad form, but not on that question of cheating. If you're looking for a gray area, I think it's appropriate to talk about exploits, which is using the shortcomings of game design to your advantage. It is not exactly manipulating the game itself (which is also common), but exploiting, hence the term, flaws for uses never intended.

I agree Elysium, the second you remove yourself from the same playing field as the rest of the other players, it's no longer about skill anymore. Games are about skill, if you can't hack the competition, don't play.

But, just like there are A-Holes in real life, there will always be A-Holes in gaming. I guess it just wouldn't be the same with a highly sanitized experience, we'd have less things to bitch about

I cheat at one game all the time, and before I'm tossed into the bonfire, let me explain!

One of my favorite online games is Medal of Honor. I play it at least a half dozen times a week. But not long after getting the game, I noticed that despite years of experience in FPS multiplayer games and normally being the best player in the score lists for those type games, that some people would come into the game and double my score easily.

As I normally do when I come across a player that shows better skill, I tried to seek out said player and gather information on what strategy he used so that I might absorb and use it myself. But these players were killing me before I was able to even spot them on the screen!

So into spectator mode I go and encounter my first observations of cheating (game hacking) in person. First off, they were shooting at targets that they couldn't even see due to the distance fog in the game, so I knew they had altered the game to alow themselfs to see further. Second, they could take out people with very little aiming. Normally in MOH there is weapon kickback where your gun aim is affected by the gunburst. These guys could take someone out with a short burst aimed at the head of the target and hit almost every time.

Now, I could have said to myself "oh well, another cheat infested game" and went my merry way, but not this time. These asshats needed to be tought a lesson!

So I scoured the internet and came across the web sites that give downloads for MOH cheats, along with instructions as to how to do the installation of said files. And thus the hunt for cheaters began!

I have one installation of MOH that is cheat free, and is what I normally use to play the game. But as soon as I get the impression that some asshat is use'n cheats in my game session, I log out and goto my cheaters installation of MOH and come back to same server, join the oposite side (I only play team deathmatch) and proceed to slaughter the cheater, and ALWAYS rub it in his nose that even though he cheats his score SUCKS compared to mine.

As you can see, I'm a firm believer in "Eye for an Eye", or in this case, fight cheaters with cheating.

Hrm ... A White Hat cheater? I think we'll need to ask the judges for a decision on this one.

**edit: j/k dude. I'd do the same thing.

Thank God, civil gamers DO exist. I've been gaming for almost all my life, but am still under 20, so online has been around for most of this time. I try it occasionally, but these trolls online just ruin it. I can understand of course, as I used to be one of them. Thing is, I stopped around age 13. I just felt embarrassed to need that much help just to win a round. It wasn't just cheating either. Online, people are given full lisence to act like sh*ts. It's really sad. Now when I play online, its with friends logged on through a specific IP address, usually passworded. If a cheat is being used, it was agreed upon earlier and helps no one specifically, like low gravity or something similar. I just avoid MMOs altogether. Until there is some sort of clear consequence for these "1337" *ssh*les, I don't think I'll be online much at all. I just can't take anyone out there seriously. Is there anyone else who's just given up on online, or do I just have no patience?

I'm with you miffy. Until I discovered GWJ last year, I'd all but given up on online gaming. Now I only play with GWJers, and I coudn't be happier.

Check the GAMES calendar. This group is always playing something.

nice analysis fletch. on the technical side, the "clipping" glitch that you observed has come to be known as "dummying" its done with a glitch where a player to goes to get out of the passenger seat of the warthog, but cancels this disembarkment at the last second. As far as everyone else can see, the player has gotten out of the warthog, but from his perspective, he's still in it. Then they just drive the warthog up to the flag and the guy gets out (invisibly) on top of the flag, picks it up and then moves, which causes his point of view to return to where his body actualy is (usualy near the cap point) along with the flag.

i saw it happen, so i scoured the net looking for how the heck people were doing it... It turns out that it is an extremely complicated exploit, that takes about as much work as a regular assult on the flag. However, Bungie has sited this exploit specificly as something they consider cheating, so if you see it happening, definitely report it.

To let you all know: The major weakness on the part of this exploit is that that the "dummy's" visible body (that he left behind) can still be killed, killing the invisible side of the split as well.