Valorant, like all first-person shooters, has a huge problem: cheating. Actually, it has several problems, including smurfing, but cheating is by far the worst. Millions of people play this esport, watch its professional tournaments and bet on Valorant regularly. But despite its popularity and the decades of experience companies have with FPS titles, getting rid of scripters is much harder than it seems.
The Obvious Damage Done by Cheating
When someone cheats in one of your games, you’re running the risk of losing rank points that you should have won or of winning rank points that you should have lost. In both cases, you are being robbed. It may not seem obvious to you why you’re being robbed when you win in an unfair way, but in the long run you inevitably come to the realization that players with a higher rank are simply more skilled. And that the goal is not to climb in rank but in skill. Otherwise, your rank becomes an unsustainable lie.
The Subtle Damage Done by Cheating
Cheating has a huge psychological impact on people. Those who practice it train their ability to be dishonest. And those who suffer because of it lose their desire to play. A lot of FPS players quit games like Valorant or CS:GO because of cheaters. Becoming a better gamer requires you to have the confidence that the system is fair. Otherwise you start having the feeling that you might be struggling in vain.
No matter how good you are for your rank, someone with scripts is very hard to beat. Not to mention the fact that you can run into smurfs, which is the equivalent of fighting a heavyweight in boxing when you’re a lightweight. After a while, you can no longer distinguish between genuine skill and genuine cheats. When you lose, you always have the impression that the other team cheated in some way.
In professional tournaments, top Valorant players are expected to perform at an inhuman level, to have incredibly good intuitions, and to land impossible shots. When it happens, everyone cheers and is amazed by their skills. But when you play public games teamed up with random players against random players, if you know the system is hackable you no longer appreciate a great move, as you would in chess. Instead, you immediately start to suspect that you’ve been cheated. The first impulse is to report the other player for potentially being good at the game.
When people have confidence in the honesty of other players and the system itself, a special moment makes you say “good game!” or “amazing, congratulations!”. But when that confidence has been eroded over months and years of catching cheaters and reading stories about them, the beauty of the game and the skill of its players are diminished. Moments of magic become moments of paranoia.
How Companies Combat Cheating
Companies like Valve and Riot Games combat cheating using their own anti-cheat software. But despite the marketing, this software is far from perfect and can cause trust problems of its own. Just take for instance Riot’s Vanguard, which requires you to have it installed and running at all times on your PC. For a gamer who enjoys privacy, this is very uncomfortable. The idea that a huge corporation might spy on you or steal your data without saying a word is a bit too creepy to handle. Problems of this nature cause people to be suspicious before they even log into their gaming accounts.
Another thing to note about cheating is that it functions like a virus. The more cheaters there are, the more cheaters there will be in the future. Because people get infected with the belief that the only way to keep up with the cheaters is to become one yourself. On top of that, just like a virus mutates and becomes more resistant, cheating software adapts to the anti-cheating software. Changes to the latter quickly result in changes to the former. There simply isn’t a definitive victory for the gaming companies, no matter how much they invest in solving the problem. There’s even a dark side here that some have pointed out. In the case of paid games, some companies may even feel good about having millions of cheaters that they can catch. Because those people will purchase the game on a new account after their current one gets banned. This is bad for the entire esports industry.