Cheaters in competition are relentlessly hunted down, publicly shamed and universally despised. The idea of there being ‘free-loaders’ who are afforded advantages by circumnavigating fair play prickles some of the most ingrained systems of our psyche. Games, and competitions are, after all, models by which we project and play-out the uniquely human experience. We reject the idea of someone climbing a hierarchy (or, putting down others) using unfair means because it goes directly against the promotion of pro-social behaviour. It attacks the very nature of ‘success’ and can corrupt our underlying notions of morality in play.

In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the hatred of cheaters, or more specifically, unfair play, is felt in the very marrow of its community. More-so, I’d argue, than other games. This isn’t, however, because CS:GO players are inherently more ethical and conscious of the philosophical underpinnings of cheating. CS:GO players are, instead, just more exposed to the immediate repercussions of its effects at a deeper level. The hate of cheaters in CS:GO stems from the mechanics of the game up into the players, not the contextual psychology of its players and culture down onto the game.

CS:GO is, often times, a game of milliseconds and pixels. A spray through a smoke a touch this way or that, can result in a tilting death. A split-hair difference in reaction time via energy drink consumption can lead to the clinching shot to win a duel and as a result, a big round. The gap between winning and losing the moments which make-up a round is very, very small - especially the higher the level of play. As a result, nebulous tangibles like ‘confidence’, ‘forward pressure’, or ‘tilt’ are often tightly linked with performance. Frustration can come quickly and strongly while also impacting the output of impact due to the punishing and high-stakes nature of CS:GO’s mechanics.

CSGO Wallhack

Cheating, therefore, allows players to consistently win seemingly very small moments that surmount to large emotional responses and distinct changes in in-game ‘feel’. Being hit by a nade for half hp from around a corner, or tagged through a wall in a big round has a heavy weight of unfairness because you know just how important those health points are. A subtle cheat can make a match a tiring slog of constantly being put at a small disadvantage (whether you’re aware of it or not) in a pursuit where such advantages are hard-earned and vitally important.

In fighting games, the ability to cheat your way into finding these subtle advantages are a lot harder. There are less factors at play that go into influencing the outcome of a match and thus less to manipulate unfairly. In CS:GO there’s so many of these tiny factors that can and almost always are altered by cheats that it’s more in the forefront of players and frustrating when it happens.

Counter-strike hacks

Cheats also affect a CS:GO experience more than most because CS truly is all about the individual experience and enabling the individual to dominate, or get dominated by others. It is, after all a ‘first-person shooter’, in both that it’s perspective is in first-person and that the person, or individual, is put first in the games priorities. Every player has a chance to kill every enemy at any point in the round. While the probability of this happening shifts based on an infinite number of factors, there is in-theory nothing (in the game’s mechanics) stopping a pistol with no armour killing give fully-armoured snipers.

As a result, when so much power to shift a game is put in the hands of each player, a cheater becomes a God. As most players know, if you drop 40+ kills in a match, chances are you win that game. This level of domination and ability to hard-carry matches is what most players chase when they que (tangentially, it is what makes smurfing such a big deal as well). The underlying system that allows it to happen is what cheaters manipulate.

In contrast, MOBA’s look to actually strip this level of individual freedom away, integrating anti-snowball mechanics into play. The individual has less impact on the overall direction of the game. This doesn’t mean they have no say whatsoever, but in comparison to CS:GO, it’s hardly a subtle nudge.

CS:GO players are more finely in-tune with a sense of unfairness due to how much is put behind an individual wanting to win fairly. From the margin of error, to importance of emotions, to the power of the individual, it sometimes feel as though one can’t not put weight on CS in-the-moment. But as a by-product, it also creates a fragile web that a cheater easily destroys. And destroying a system which can have so much meaning is something a community doesn’t let happen easily, and is why I believe the CS community hate cheating the most.