Dirty Little Helpers: game walkthroughs, game guides, and FAQs. Some of us resort to them when stuck in a video game for hours. But the sense of guilt and shame is nearly always there. Many video game enthusiasts are divided over the nature of game walkthroughs; some consider them a necessary evil, while others see them as cheats. The answer is neither black nor white (more on it in a bit).
Why Do People Use Game Walkthroughs?
There’s a big reason sites like game wikis and GameFAQs have grown exponentially in popularity in recent years. People look stuff up when playing a video game. When asked why would they use a game guide or walkthrough, most users say that some titles are so poorly-designed that there is no way in the world an average player could learn how to unlock an achievement, get a weapon upgrade, jump to the next level, or beat that final boss without the extra help.
Most of these people use game walkthroughs to speed up the gaming process and create a more fluid experience. Or they may cut themselves hours of stress and frustration when they are stuck for some odd reason.
Other people are less practical. They just want to get as many game collectibles as they can without wasting hours of their lives on a cluster of pixels. Other people look up the prices of specific items to keep themselves from wasting days grinding low-value items to sell.
Players may also use a game walkthrough when playing older games like action-adventure titles or puzzles, which are incredibly hard to solve by yourself, or when they just want to relax and have fun. It is the same logic behind why people pay for microtransactions.
Also, some gamers use game walkthroughs to help them recall things like what mobs drop which items for their craft. They spare themselves hours of mindless grinding in an area they had already successfully cleared. Other gamers may use FAQs to gain access to secret levels like Whimsyshire in Diablo III (here is the full level walkthrough) or to know which quests are worth completing in certain areas like the Hall of Echoes in Divinity Original Sin 2 (you can check out the Divinity Original Sin 2 guide here.)
Is It Cheating?
As a brutally honest brave soul once put it, “If it feels like cheating, it is cheating”. But the question is, who are you cheating on? How can using a guide in a single-player strategy game, for instance, be cheating when the only person you are playing against is a computer algorithm?
So, in single-player mode, the only person you are cheating on by using a walkthrough is yourself. In other words, you deprive yourself of the whole gaming experience and a sense of accomplishment in the end.
Gamers don’t consider using game walkthroughs cheating because they don’t offer you an unfair advantage over other players or create an unbalance in the game’s mechanics and/or economy. Video game cheat cartridges; invincibility modes; or flying, speed, and wall-hacks in online games do.
Game guides, on the other hand, are like cheating on your math homework by getting the solution from an answer engine like Wolfram Alpha. You are just robbing yourself of the way the game was supposed to be played. For instance, in horror games or action-adventure titles, you lose the element of immersion if you know all the spoilers, shortcuts, and Easter eggs beforehand.
That is why many seasoned players would rather complete a game on their own; then they can go back to it with a walkthrough in their hands to find all the collectibles and things that they might have missed the first time.
Does using game walkthroughs and FAQs make you a cheater? It depends. If for you, it feels like cheating, and you get a sense of shame and defeat whenever you use them, play the game without their help. But if they make the game more fun and save you needless stress and frustration, use them to your heart’s content. Do it as long as these tools don’t give you an unfair advantage over other players… that would be “cheating.”
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