Sarah Jeong has an article up about Epic suing a 14 year old cheater in their free-to-play game Fortnite.
It’s absolutely twisted that a business can sue anyone for cheating in a video game. It’s slightly more understandable to get litigious with people making and selling cheats, but then Epic should really just strengthen their anti-cheating software and review system.
Epic should alter Fortnite to give players tools to understand cheating and report it when it happens. Of course they’d need to hire people to review reports. Maybe they’re doing that as well, we don’t know, but suing people for cheating in an online multiplayer game is boneheaded.
Jeong also talks about Epic using YouTube’s copyright infringement reporting tool to take down the cheater’s videos. That shouldn’t be possible. It’s absolutely a broken system that developers and publishers can make videos disappear via copyright notices just because they don’t like the content of the video. If YouTube doesn’t want videos about game cheating on their site then video game cheating should be in their stated policies.
How does Valve handle cheating?
When Valve’s anti-cheat system, VAC, detects a user has cheated in a multiplayer game they’re marked for seven years on their Steam profile page and blocked from VAC protected servers.
Patrick Klepek interviewed cheaters who were branded:
“When you have big red letters on your profile announcing everyone you have a ban, the experience is never going to be good,” said Oliveira. “If you don’t suck at a game, they will right away point a finger at you and accuse you of cheating. You get told so many times that ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater.’ I knew I did it, I knew I would never do it again, and I wanted to prove that that was not me. But how do you do that? How will they believe you? Yeah, no. It’s the biggest badge of shame a person can have in an online world.”
Oliveira found himself taunted when playing games, years after his initial offense. He couldn’t shake the stink, and Valve offered no recourse. He was, for at least seven years, a cheater.
Bizarre to me is that everyone interviewed agreed the policy was generally acceptable.
This program lacks nuance. Policies against cheating are good, but without more granularity in enforcement it’s kind of ridiculous. Someone who cheats at Counter-Strike for ten minutes shouldn’t necessarily be punished the same as another person who cheats for a month.
A few years ago I asked at a Valve GDC booth for job-seekers if they ever had room for online community managers. It’s not surprising the Valve employee thought the idea of them hiring an online community manager was ridiculous after reading this article from Patrick. The one-size-fits-all kind of anti-cheat enforcement has the stink of developers making community decisions all over it.