Cheating Yourself

Mike Lease

Recently, there has been a rash of incidents of cheating on the judges. This appears to be due largely to the availability of "freemail" accounts, such as Hotmail, Rocketmail, etc. What happens is that someone gets the bright idea of registering on the judge with multiple accounts, giving false information for some or all of them. Then he/she either goes out and find a game to join, with one or two guaranteed "allies", or he/she creates a game and becomes its Master and also takes one or two positions as a player. In the former case, it "merely" creates a situation in which the unsuspecting players are outnumbered by the one taking multiple positions; in the latter case, the cheater gets the opportunity to see the orders submitted by the other players in the game before submitting his/her own.

My primary and immediate reaction to this is, "What is the point?!?" What has the player proved by "winning" the game in this manner? That a man can win a fight if his opponent's arms are handcuffed behind his back? Well, duh! Tell us something we don't know! "Winning" in this manner demonstrates nothing about a player's abilities as a diplomat or as a strategist. An unfair victory is meaningless to the "winner", and is a complete waste of time for the players who tried to play fairly. They invested time and effort into trying to make alliances and plan strategy, all the while not suspecting that two or three of their opponents were really one and the same, or that their moves were previewed by their opponent.

There are those who would ask, "What do you mean, cheating? Isn't Diplomacy all about lying and cheating so you can win?" No. It's about playing within the rules of the game, which allow you to lie to the other players, but do not allow you to deceive the GM. The object is to persuade other players to help you and that you will help them, even if the latter isn't really true. But once you introduce factors outside of the rules, it isn't really Diplomacy anymore.

Why do people do this? I think there is a combination of factors at work here. First, there is the feeling of cleverness that comes from figuring out how to "beat the system". These people probably figure that they're the first ones ever to come up with the idea, and think it shows they are "k00l". Ha! There have been several people over the past several months who have been caught at this, and the reaction has been the same. The cheaters were banned from the judge/s where they were caught, and the affected Judge Keepers shared the cheaters' identities so they could be banned from other judges.

Second, I think there are people who feel they have to win at all costs. They have some kind of ego problem that requires victory to feed, it just doesn't occur to them that their "victory" means nothing.

Third, as I mentioned above, the appearance on the Internet scene of freemail accounts have contributed to this. It is trivially easy for one person to get email accounts that appear to be different people, and register on the judges as different people.

What can be done about the problem? There was a rather heated discussion on the judge-maint list (a mailing list for people interested in working with the judge software, etc.) about the possibility of implementing assorted technical and non-technical solutions, ranging from banning all freemail accounts from the judges to assigning someone to register people by snail-mail. However, we pretty much reached the conclusion that there was no system that couldn't be beaten by someone determined to do it, and the challenge of trying to beat it might actually attract the interest of certain types of people. So, I think the solution is to lay out the problem, and try to convince people to play fairly. That is what I'm trying to do with this article, and if I can convince one person who might otherwise have tried to cheat, then I think this article will be well worth it.

If you have thought about the possibility of joining a game using multiple identities, please think again. First of all, you will be wasting the time of the other players, the GM, and the Judge Keeper (who may have to get involved in determining whether or not you've been cheating). Second, any victory you gain this way will be meaningless; if you really think about it, how can you get any satisfaction from beating up on other players who never had a chance to begin with? Third, if you get caught, you will lose the opportunity to play on the judges. The Judge Keeper will bar you from playing on his judge, and share your identity with other Judge Keepers so they can do the same. Is it really worth it? Those who cheat aren't being clever or cool; they're simply being nuisances to the community. It is so much more satisfying to win when you have done so through your own efforts at diplomacy and strategy.

Mike Lease

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