Poll: What's your opinion on cheating in IF?

If this is going to turn into a discussion of what is a game, be warned.

@mattw Oh no! To steer the conversation back to the original, maybe the question should not be “Is it morally right to cheat/use a walkthrough?”, but “Would you recommend cheating to a newcomer in IF?”

The first question is unanswerable, but the second question is more concrete: will cheating most likely increase or decrease for a random individual?

Despite my personal enjoyment of cheating, I would in fact agree with vlaviano’s position as a starting point for new players: try it without hints, and see how you like it. I do think most people will get a better experience this way. I only disagree with cheating being ‘morally wrong’ in some sense.

I think cheating (in general) can be morally wrong, but I don’t really think of using hints (in a context where you’re not violating some contract or set of rules you’ve agreed upon with others, and you’re not trying for a world record, or what have you) as cheating.

But if we’re talking about “directly altering the game’s code or memory to gain some benefit,” as Cylius_Optimi later clarified–I suppose that could violate the software license and be an ethical issue. Or it could be an issue if you’re competing unfairly against others.

But yeah, I do agree with you that it’s generally a more enjoyable experience if you try to see how far you can get without hints or a walkthrough. Just typing in commands from the walkthrough for the entire game sounds like no fun at all.

I totally got my start with IF using hints and walkthroughs where I couldn’t find hints. I tried to do whatever I could without the walkthrough, but it generally wasn’t much. Like, when I played Metamorphoses I got brickwalled because when I saw this:

I didn’t know that a reasonable thing to do would be to

examine the trees, because that might reveal a new object.

I even played Spider and Web looking at walkthroughs, because I hadn’t played much IF and couldn’t get past the simplest part of it. And I did get a lot out of the most famous puzzle…hey, if you don’t know what I’m talking about really don’t read that spoiler…

though I still had to look at the walkthrough because at the crucial moment I forgot what meant “off” and what meant “on.”

And when I played A Flustered Duck you know I used the hints all the time. (To be fair, I think that game is designed with the expectation that you’ll need the built-in hints. (As Jenni said of it, “I am starting to suspect he only writes games to showcase his marvellous hint systems.”)

Part of this maybe comes from the fact that I’d been playing a lot of room escape games before, which are often pretty impenetrable without a little nudge from the walkthrough. But yeah, I’m not at all sorry that I started out with parser puzzle IF using hints and walkthroughs. Without them I’d have had nothing.

I never claimed that tabletop RPGs are not games. I claimed that “games” without conflict aren’t games. RPGs do involve conflict (see Peter’s post), just not necessarily against one’s fellow players. (Although plenty of my AD&D games involved a lot of that.)

Edit: I edited this for clarity while Nick was responding. Editing it back to its original form that he quoted.

My point is that many people, myself included, play these games in a way that the DM and players aren’t in conflict, not in any real game-level sense.

But that’s all I’ll say about that because I already know what a duck penis looks like.

To speak to the original point of the thread, I play adventure games for story/atmosphere/etc. first and puzzle-solving second, so if the latter gets in my way of the former I’ll cheat without hesitation.

I mean, it’s satisfying to solve a tough puzzle but I know my limits as a puzzle-solver and if chasing after that satisfaction means I just never finish a great game then there’s no contest about what I’d rather miss out on.

Oh, and let me add that as a philosophy major (yeah, I know, you want to punch me now, I’ll wait out back) I find the idea that anyone could think, in any context, that cheating at a video game is morally wrong is absolutely flinging-my-own-feces-at-a-wall insane.

ETA: Okay, not any context; but I don’t think anyone here is talking about cheating in professional Starcraft tournaments.

The “killer DM” who actively competes against his players is a bad one, because of the power imbalance. An unwinnable game is as boring as one that’s too easy. However, even in a well-balanced game, the players are competing against the DM’s ingenuity in the form the scenario that he’s laid out and its obstacles. I view a player competing against an IF author’s puzzles similarly.

It appears that you have led a richer life than I.

I think there are a lot of reasons people play games and make games and a lot of ways to approach playing and making games, and “competition” doesn’t rank high on my list of priorities in any of those contexts.

Knowledge is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Especially canardal knowledge. (I’ll show myself out.)

Made me laugh out loud, you did, sir. That means I’m starting the day on a cheery note. So thank you!

When I first started playing ‘Adventure Games’ as they were called, aside from the invisi-clues, (which were usually obtainable for a price $) most users wrote letters (not email) to magazines who published them in a special section for others to answer in a similar manner. Sometimes you had to wait months for an answer to your particular problem or hopefully ask staff or even other customers at your friendly computer shop to see if they knew. This was never called cheating - just getting a hint to help move along. I don’t ever recall seeing a walkthrough until years later when the internet got up and running. I will still use hints if I can find them and on a few occasions, look at a walkthrough just far enough to get past the problem. Walkthroughs are for going back later to ensure all possible responses/paths were found although even these sometimes only give the bare bones path to success.

At the end of the day if you are playing for your own enjoyment, to use cheats is a personal choice but of course the only one you are cheating is yourself. I don’t believe the author can control what the end-user does with their work and where there is a will there is a way.

FWIW, since I’ve already posted on this thread, I am of the opinion that a game that sends me to the hints or walkthrough is lacking - ideally, the game should make me trust it so much that I don’t HAVE to go to the hints/walkthrough.

BUT! Making a game like this is crazy hard, and the sweet spot varies wildly. I’m usually ok with one hint or two; they’ll tell me what to expect from the game, and whether it’s worth continuing.

See, if the first two times I get so stuck I need hints I realised that I could have gotten that, or should have, and if the game so far has been rewarding enough, I’ll be less prone to reaching for the hints later on. I’m more likely to stick with it. I will trust it.

If, however, upon reading those hints my reaction is “What? I was supposed to have figured that?!”, I’ll trust the game less and reach for the hints more. And eventually I’ll realise I’m just not enjoying myself and quit.

The sweet spot is different for everyone. I mean, I’ve had the “What? Seriously?” reaction in Christminster and The Mulldoon Legacy, but the games had already drawn me in hook, line and sinker. I could see what I had missed, and it was a sporadic thing; not a recurring thing, which is what I most dread (being worried that solving THIS and THAT puzzle is going to require me to make the same sort of leap that I found so ludicrous before. I’m the worst kind of player, because I overthink my way past a lot of puzzles. That makes it SO frustrating to see the answer!). I was able to keep enjoying the games. Same with a few Andy Phillips games, notably Heist until the endgame and Inside Woman. But Curses, for instance, offered me none of that security (plus there aren’t really hints for it, only a walkthrough). Jigsaw I enjoyed for the most part, but eventually I realised with a heavy heart that I needed to keep the walkthrough handy, partly so I could try some parts for myself first, but mostly to read afterwards to make sure I’d done everything I had to in any given scene.

What I just described - reading the hints after the fact - is something I do in a LOT of games. Especially Infocom’s. I abhor walking deads - what’s the point of playing any longer if I’m already screwed? It’s an exercise in frustration. This is cheating, yes. It also keeps it fun.

Cheat away, say I. It’s damned difficult for authors to make a game that’s just difficult enough for everyone to enjoy. One thing authors can do is not even try, and do a Flustered Duck: make it stupidly difficult and say “Go ahead and look at the hints, it’s fine”. I mean, what’s the point of having the game at all? I don’t like this. The other extreme authors can go to is make the game too easy. I think most people are in the middle ground: trying to hit the sweet spot, and gladly provide hints when they don’t reach it.

Andrew Schulz is an interesting author. I find his puzzles particularly difficult (I like wordplay the same way I like chess: I admire them, but suck terribly hard at them), but he seems to know that people like me exist and try to hint in various ways, various levels. I got hopelessly stuck at his Ectocomp game, and asked him directly, and the poor guy kept trying to clue it in for me, mostly directing me to various parts of the game; when I finally got it I really couldn’t help but notice that EVERYTHING in the game was cluing me in!

In the end, brains are geared differently… (plus there’s some cultural context for some puzzles and hints) Best to provide hints and let the player enjoy themselves. Personally, if I had to cheat so much I’d play it straight from the walkthrough… I’d stop playing because I wasn’t enjoying the game. I prefer that to butting heads with the game for weeks on end, only to find that I never would have got the answer on my own.

I think some of these words in the discussion are loaded and possibly making all this a bit more important than it actually is. Specifically “cheating” and “immoral”.

First of all I’m not sure something can be “immoral” if it doesn’t harm someone or go against a value set. When someone “cheats” at solitaire they’re not harming anyone by doing so. Someone might get so reductive-ad-absurdium to say “If they will cheat at a single player game then who can say what ELSE they’ll cheat at…” but that gets ridiculous. Cheating against other players in a competitive framework (which most IF is not) can cause harm or anger to others and might begin to trod on people’s morality, so that’s a different story.

“Cheating” also implies wrongdoing in a way that isn’t really constructive in assigning importance to a single player task. Paging to the end of a book to see what happens can be called “cheating”, but once again it harms nobody. Using existing hints, forums, or walkthroughs is by no means immoral, and isn’t cheating in the sense that a player must decide what value the game has if they want to skip a good section of it. If I’m bored with THE DAVINCI CODE and want to skip ahead see if they’re ever going to crack open the damn codex, or fast-forward through the talky bits of a Michael Bay movie to get to the explosions, that should in no way imply the sort of black mark upon my soul that “morality” and “cheating” might do removed from context. Am I going to hell for all the times I gave up on the Times crossword and looked up the answers to see what I missed?

“Cheating” when first learning IF can only be helpful in the same way that everyone plays cards-up in the first round of a new game they are learning so they might get advice on what they can do. If someone enjoys the story-telling of IF but none of the puzzles, wouldn’t an author rather they get the story somehow than be shut out of it completely by puzzles they won’t figure out?

I agree with everything HanonO said.

If I’m halfway through season 5 in a TV show, but I want to join my friends and half of America in watching the season 6 finale*… there’s nothing morally wrong with that decision. I may be confused by events, and the experience won’t be the same - but I don’t have to “earn” the right to watch the finale. No one’s lost anything but (maybe) me.

Using hints and walkthroughs in IF is exactly the same.


  • Not a hypothetical example.[/size]

For some reason, I stopped getting email notifications about this thread. I happen to come back to now 6 pages of posts, and somehow we managed to migrate to discussion of “what is a game?” and “duck penis”! Hahahah. Anyway, it’s getting late, so I won’t have very long to respond; perhaps I’ll have more to say in the morning.

Excellently said!