What does cheating in a game say about us? What about when cheating is the object of the game? What about aggression? Is aggression in games a way to “purge” some of our negative energy in a “safe” way (as in sports?) or does it promote further aggression (as in some of the research on video games)? Are people who play aggressive sports more aggressive in real life? Are people who play well in “cheating games” real-life cheaters? What about people who cheat during games? Does it say something about our ethics and values if we cheat during a game against its rules?
I remember once playing a game called “vampire” (sorry, can’t find a description of the game online) with my friends a few years ago. We were all adults, but for some reason some of our moms (including mine) were in the same room with us (cannot remember why). Anyway, in that game, I was one of the “vampires” but the other players were not supposed to know this. Winning the game depended upon my ability to deceive some of my closest friends into believing that I was not one of the vampires, so I could bit them all and keep living. I won. My mom later said, “She’s my own daughter, and I believed she was innocent, I couldn’t believe she was lying!”.
My mom’s reaction was interesting for two reasons:
1. In real life, I am a horrible liar. I don’t lie much because I am uncomfortable with the concept, it goes against my values. But when there comes a situation where I do lie, my face gives me away. My mom knows this, and so she was shocked I could maintain an innocent façade throughout the vampire game
2. My mom, as an observer of the game knew I was a vampire throughout the game (other players had their eyes closed when I was “picked” as a vampire by whoever moderates the game). So the fact that she knew I was a vampire and still thought I looked innocent was interesting!
Basically, what my mom was saying is: she could not believe the daughter she raised to be an honest person could lie so well while appearing completely innocent!
Two recent incidents reminded me of this game, and made me ask the questions at the top of this post.
First, was playing Twitter vs. Zombies and watching someone like Jim Stauffer struggle with zombiehood… And others calling themselves non-violent zombie coalition or some such thing. I was not too comfy being a zombie either (though it was more fun than being human) lobbied to create a third species (what ended up being called “chorus”). You’re obviously not a bad or evil person if you embrace zombiehood (Jim eventually did, and stopped being supernice and apologetic about it) and do your thing as part of the game. I mean, that would be silly, right? That’s just the game. It’s really about forming coalitions and using social media and building digital literacy, all while biting people virtually… No one truly gets hurt 🙂
Second, was reading Kim’s #clmooc post about how they played monopoly differently at a retreat and how some people cheated. Why would people cheat when they’re playing for fun?
I can sort of understand (but not endorse, obviously) why someone would cheat on a high-stakes exam, believing that the ends (whatever goal they’d achieve by doing well in the exam) is more important than morality and the means.
I can even understand professional athletes cheating because they feel (wrongly) compelled to.
But I have no idea why people would cheat in a “fun” game! What are the stakes and who cares? On the other hand, it’s a game, so equally: who cares if you cheat?
Back to my earlier question: do things like (harmless) aggression (in sport) or cheating/deception (in games where they are encouraged, part of the rules) actually help us stay peaceful and honest in real life, do they help us purge the “bad” in us? Or do we learn negative behaviors by playing?
I mean, in the same way that we talk about how community building via MOORPGs (someone mentioned this in the #clmooc twitter chat as counter to the more competitive nature of most board games for example) is a good thing, are some of the less positive aspects of gaming a bad thing?
I feel like I am skimming the surface and missing something important here, but can’t put my finger on it… Any ideas?