Do Cheap Tactics Ruin Online Multiplayer?

Kotaku’s Mike Fahey has made a post addressing the age old issue of people using cheap tactics and how it frustrates gamers who are victimized by them.

I never try to speak ill of my fellow players, but when someone uses a cheap tactic to come out on top I feel like I’ve been robbed of my fun time. Being repeatedly hit by grenade launchers in any Call of Duty can really make you feel like all the skill in the room just left the lobby. Same thing in Red Dead Redemption when – whoops – who needs another weapon when the high powered pistol can be spammed? And let’s not forget the cheap hunting skills of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood when using a hidden gun, getting only 100 points for a kill instead of, say, 400 if you went up close for a stealthy kill.

Do Cheap Tactics Ruin Online Multiplayer?

To begin to address this issue I must first define the meaning of cheap when it comes to gaming. Cheap tactics are those which require relatively low amounts of skill to execute, but are highly effective. Often they take the form of simple actions repeated over and over that are extremely difficult to defeat.

My favorite example of a so-called cheap tactic that ruins games is snaking in Mario Kart DS. By shaking the DS back and forth very rapidly a player can get blue sparks far more often than was every intended by the game designers. It’s very easy to do, but it might hurt the hands/fingers of the player doing it. If one player uses the technique, then all other players must use it to maintain any chance of winning.

Why do cheap tactics ruin the fun in a game? Think of a fighting game like Street Fighter 2. The fun of Street Fighter 2 is the complex attack and defense. There are so many moves and characters to choose from, and so many different options. That is what gives fighting games such extensive replay value.

Now imagine if in Street Fighter 2, Ryu’s Hadoken were unblockable and unavoidable. Suddenly every single player would always play Ryu and do nothing but throw fireballs. Winning and losing would simply depend on who could throw the fireballs faster. All other strategies are guaranteed losing strategies. A game that was so huge and complex is actually dead simple. At first glance, the game appeared as complex as Go, but in reality is simpler than tic-tac-toe.

My main problem with the Mike’s posting is that he seems to think that the correct solution is for players to not use these cheap tactics. I strongly disagree. If you are playing a¬†competitive¬†game, you play to win by any means necessary without cheating.

You play to win the game. The solution to tic-tac-toe is well known, as illustrated so well by xkcd. If you play tic-tac-toe, and you don’t follow that winning strategy, then you either don’t know it, or you aren’t playing to win. If you know the solution to tic-tac-toe, why are you playing it in the first place? Playing a solved game is pointless. The point of playing a game to win is because you are trying to solve it. Once it’s solved, game over.

When a game has a cheap tactic, then that game is solved or broken. Do not blame a player for being cheap. You can’t blame someone for playing to win. Blame the game for being shitty. Also, if someone is being cheap, and you are not, you should ask yourself “why aren’t I playing to win?” On the same token, players who have solved a game should ask themselves “why am I playing this game that I’ve solved?”

Don’t blame the player, blame the game. The only time you blame the player, is if they are not playing to win.

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