It’s a phenomenon that’s becoming very well known in the gaming world. With each release of a Call of Duty game you only need to wait a few days before someone has figured out how to get out of the maps, how to hide under the floor or get infinite ammo on whichever weapon they want. But what is it about Call of Duty that makes it such an appealing prospect for cheaters? For those of you who aren’t aware, I work with kids who are obsessed by COD despite being 5 or 6 years below the age rating, and it gives you a fascinating insight into the world of a gaming cheat.
The irony in the situation is that the Call of Duty series has become a victim of its own success. Since the first Modern Warfare title (that’s COD4, number fans) it’s been the online game of choice for a vast number of gamers, some spending upwards of 18 hours a day online. Indeed, it was quite telling to see the top 20 players on Modern Warfare 3 had all chalked up over 48 hours of online play after the game had only been on the shelves for 3 days. That’s a whole new level of obsession.
And the strangest thing? These players probably won’t slow down. They’ll keep playing, addicted to the fact that their epic schedule gives them an intimate knowledge of every inch of every map. Hiding places will be found before anyone else, weapon upgrades will make them even harder to beat, and the buzz from hitting the top of the tree in every game is enough for these folks to refuse to stop.
But how does this link in to cheating? Well it’s easy to find plenty of real world examples where people have cheated to be the best, or to do things that nobody else could do. Take a look at pretty much any sport and you’ll find example of people who have cheated to be the best. Ben Johnson and Maradonna both famously cheated to try to be better than anyone else, and yet the difference here is that they probably didn’t need to. They were already world beaters in their fields who just wanted to be even better. That’s not to say everyone who becomes the best at what they do will turn to cheating, in fact cheating is generally reserved for those who want to be the best but don’t have the actual ability to beat others on a regular basis. Losing hurts some people, that’s why you get people quitting out of a game of FIFA once they go 3-0 down, they know their overall stats will record the loss but seeing the full time score in their opponent’s favour is too difficult to cope with.
It stands to reason that those who put the hours in are actually less likely to be the ones found cheating – they’ve poured a crazy amount of time into perfecting their skills, why would they risk the ban hammer by cheating and losing their progress? No, it’s those who want to appear to be the best without the skill. Why play for months to get good when you can activate a glitch to make you invincible? Youth culture nowadays is all about going one better; kids add hundreds of random people to their Facebook friends to look more popular, add everyone’s number to their mobile to look like they know more people, and – yep, you’ve guessed it – will do anything to top their friends list online. If this means cheating then so be it, they’ll do everything they can do reach the top.
But here’s the key question. Why Call of Duty?
The answer is easy. It’s a selfish game. Sure there are team modes, but there’s very little reward for helping your teammates out – if you want the points, you capture the headquarters first, or grab the flag first. While some people might get a kick out of helping out and will enjoy just being on the winning team, a lot of people will obsess about being the name at the top of the list.
Compare that to Battlefield 3. The squad based mechanics means you’re rewarded for helping others on your team. Sharing your ammo, healing fallen players, repairing vehicles, they don’t add anything to your kill count but they help your team to win the round. You’re even rewarded handsomely for doing so; it’s not out of the question to win a round without really killing anyone. Being in the right place at the right time with a defibrillator is just as important as putting a bullet in the enemy.
It’s not Call of Duty’s fault, and the blame can’t always be dropped at the door of the developers. The very style of the online gameplay means it will always be a selfish game to play, and will always encourage players to put themselves first for the sake of earning more XP. But how this is dealt with is down to the developers, and with glitching still a common practice in MW2 it does appear that more can be done to counter it.
Until Call of Duty becomes a different style of game, or something else comes along to take the XP obsessives away to another game then it’ll be the gaming lightbulb to the cheating moths. And let’s face it, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.