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Ricardo Rodriguez, 2023 2nd Place Foundations of Ethics and Diversity

Foundations of Ethics and Diversity submissions are open to essays completed for UF 200. Students are encouraged to submit an essay exploring civic, ethical, and/or diversity on a local, regional, national or international topic. If the essay is the product of a team project, all names must be submitted and all team members will share the award. Essays should not exceed 20 pages. Ricardo Rodriguez wrote the 2nd place submission in the Foundations of Ethics and Diversity category for the 2023 President’s Writing Awards.

About Ricardo

Ricard Rodriguez sitting at a picnic table at the park

I am a second year student at BSU majoring in Computer Science. I hope to graduate and enter into the field of software development. I’d like to work on video games, but any opportunity to solve a coding puzzle is welcome. I’m bilingual and fluent in both English and Spanish. While English is my first language, I was never really confident in my own writing skills. I have my professors to thank for encouraging me to enter this contest by assuring me that my writing was better than I thought. I guess they were right!

Winning Manuscript – An Epidemic of Online Cheaters

Video games have long been a controversial topic due to concerns over addiction, unfair representation, and even promoting negative behavior. In spite of these concerns, video games and online gaming has seen a massive surge in popularity in recent years and shows no signs of slowing as the gaming industry continues to gain traction in the entertainment industry. The gaming industry is projected to generate nearly $5 billion by 2030, which is more than the National Hockey League (Boxer). However, there is yet another threat to the industry that is more pressing than the other concerns, which have mostly been disproven at this point, and that is the growing issue of dishonest players in online games. This group of people, simply labeled “cheaters” are people that gain unfair advantages in a variety of ways that allow them to outperform other online players. These player’s lack of integrity not only ruins the experience for other players, but also tarnishes the industry as a whole, and if left unchecked, could eventually cause a decline in the success of the industry.

Part of the success of video games is due to the growing ability to sanction large events for competitive online games which can be monetized. Similar to the NFL or NBA, these large events draw crowds which can pay for tickets to watch the events live. Similarly, video gaming events can be viewed in person or over a broadcast through the purchase of tickets just like any other sporting event, and thanks to sponsorships from large companies such as Nvidia, the Republic of Gamers, and many others, these events can take place at quite a large scale and offer great advertising opportunities for other brands, which in turn creates greater profits for the event organizers and the players that are involved. Another driving force of the gaming industry is the community of gamers known as “content creators” that enjoy playing these games and sharing their experience with viewers, either through live-streaming platforms such as Twitch, or by uploading videos to platforms like YouTube. Of course there are players in the community who play the games simply for their own leisure entertainment. In every level of this industry, however, there is the lingering problem of unethical cheaters.

Cheaters can gain unfair advantages in these online games by a variety of means. Perhaps the most common is through the utilization of software, often referred to as “hacks”, that can allow them to see through normally opaque obstacles to see where their opponents are positioned, auto aim correction to allows for effortless elimination of opponents, and a myriad of other options that affect the game’s mechanics in some shape or form. Other forms of cheating appear as attacks to the opponent’s online connection by either slowing it down, or eliminating it altogether. There have been cases of match fixing, where players have decided beforehand what the outcome of a game would be. There have even been cases of players doping with focus enhancing drugs such as Adderall or Vyvanse (Boxer). Regardless of the form of cheating, they all have the same effect of ruining the gaming experience for everyone else. They ruin the game for people who play simply to have fun. They ruin it for content creators and their viewers, and of course they ruin it for professional level players and the events that they participate in.

Some people try to underplay the severity of the issue asking why it even matters, it’s just children playing games. One of the ethical lenses through which we can analyze the situation is the Utilitarian lens which asks who all is involved in the issue, and how does it affect everyone? It also tells us that the correct ethical action is, “The one that produces the greatest balance of good over harm for as many stakeholders as possible.” (Velasquez). So, let’s analyze the issue through this lens. The casual players have their enjoyment of the game that they paid for at stake. The content creators have their content at stake, which they often make a living off of through monetization. Content that can be ruined since no one wants to see gameplay of a person unfairly losing repeatedly. The professional players have their careers at stake since they often need to maintain global rankings to qualify for the organized events, and of course winning determines the pro player’s chances of gaining sponsorship deals and prize pools. The event organizers have the viewership of their events at stake since people don’t want to watch poorly regulated events. Finally, the game publishers have their own reputation and economic success at stake since no one wants to play a game that’s full of cheaters. The only people that benefit from the issue going unresolved are the cheaters who are allowed to continue their harmful behavior. Needless to say, this issue affects many groups of people and our lens of ethics guides us to try and correct this unbalanced state of harm to the industry and its stakeholders.

Of course there are attempts being made to correct the issue of cheating, but since the gaming industry is still relatively new, there is still much room for improvement in the regulations that govern online games. For instance, the Valve Corporation, a well known game publisher and event organizer, have their own anti-cheat system known as VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) which aims to detect the use of hacks, which then allows legal action to be taken against the cheater. There are three primary problems with this approach, however. First, the anti-cheat system is fairly invasive as far as user files go, and because of this anti-cheat systems are limited on how reliably they can detect hacks due to data privacy laws. This is less of an issue for professional level players, since they are often required to agree to allow closer inspection of their system and game files in order to be allowed to compete. This leads into the second issue of unequal access to access to well monitored game servers which allow for more effective detection of cheaters. Finally, the third issue is that even the more invasive version of anti-cheat software can fail to detect custom-tailored cheat software. Another approach to eliminating cheating is through the help of organizations such as the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) which aim to solve the “integrity challenges” of hacks, online attacks, match fixing, and doping through the use of people that are essentially referees. These refs watch and review gameplay footage and try to spot unusual interactions and situations that seem suspicious and likely to be the cause of cheating. The problem is that hacks can be difficult to spot in the heat of high paced competitive games, and any unnatural performance can simply be attributed to many hours of practice. A similar system is in place for many online games that allows for players to “report” other players that are suspected of cheating. However, this system has the same weaknesses. Organizations such as the ESIC also have codes and policies in place that players must abide by such as the Code of Conduct, the Anti-Corruption Code, and the Anti-Doping Policy all of which allow for the banning of players found violating these policies (Ashton).

While these policies and game analyses help at least mitigate the issue of cheating, the problem is that they are only in place for professional level play. It does nothing to help game publishers, content creators, or casual players. In a sense, these legal actions are reserved for people who have the skill to be in the top 3% of any given competitive online game. This can be viewed as a form of ableism. It simply isn’t possible for everyone to play at a professional level.

These solutions only help a relatively small portion of the stakeholders. The small portion of professional players, and the event organizers that benefit from events that perform well without any unexpected complications. Another contributing factor to the issue is the fact that there are no governing laws or regulations that dictate how game publishers and developers are expected to handle cheaters in their online titles. Under Article 24 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure time.” Then under Article 29 it also states, ”In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” Then by not actively attempting to create laws and policies that protect a player’s rights to the enjoyment of the playing or viewing of their chosen form of entertainment, is that not a violation, or at the very least a blatant disregard for these rights? Furthermore, beyond the topic of rights is our moral obligation to uphold the ethics of happiness which Weston writes as including the values of satisfaction and pleasure. Weston also writes that, “The Ethics of Happiness challenges us to achieve the greatest balance of happiness over suffering.” (Weston 106).

Of course there are still efforts being made towards attempting to solve this matter, but the bottom line is that it is not yet solved. In fact, it may never be fully resolved if the cheating in traditional sports is any indication. People who are determined to ruin the integrity of competitive events will continue to find new ways to circumvent the rules and regulations, but that doesn’t mean we can stop trying to correct the issue. Even though the industry is still in its early life, it has still been around longer than I’ve even been aware of it. In that time, the issues have only continued to grow. I may not know what the solution is, but I believe that the goal should be creating a system that heavily deters people from violating the rules and makes it incredibly difficult to do so in the first place. The system should be one that is applied equally and fairly to everyone involved. To help aid us in seeking the next right steps, we can look at works of literature on the topic of ethics such as “What Can We Do?” by Allan G. Johnson. In this excerpt from Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, Johnson writes about some ways that we as consumers and stakeholders in the issue can try and make some change on at the community (meso) level, such as “findings little ways to to withdraw support from… [oppressive systems,] starting with yourself.” or, “ Make noise, be seen.” (Johnson 624). The first suggestion by Johnson explains how in order to interrupt the flow of business, we simply need to not go along with the status quo. This can mean not taking part in cheating ourselves to “get even”. We can also interrupt the flow by not buying games from companies that have put in little to no effort to help correct the cheating epidemic. The second suggestion described by Johnson is about speaking out and being vocal about our dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, and letting everyone know more about what’s going on. This way people will know that the issue affects more than just kids playing games.

Even if we can’t make an immediate change, in order to break free from the system of oppression, we must make an effort to enter the cycle of liberation described by Bobbie Harro, another well established author in the realm of social justice. In her contribution “The Cycle of Liberation”, she writes about patterns of events common to successful liberation efforts. While the cycle is by no means linear, we can gain a clearer idea of where to head next in the process of correcting this issue of cheating by recognizing different parts of the cycle and trying to determine where we currently stand in the cycle. While there is a large audience of people who are still unaware of the issue of online cheating, I still believe that we are in the community building portion of the cycle. Harro explains that this section consists of, “Dialoguing with people who are like us for support and (people who have the same social identities as we do, with regard to the issue of oppression) and dialoguing with people who are different from us for gaining understanding and building coalitions.” (Harro 631). The issue of cheating is one that transcends the boundaries and barriers of social identity because it affects people all around the world. By dialoguing with one another we can build coalitions that draw strength from its numbers. With enough support from these coalitions it’s possible for us to make real change and enter the next portion of the cycle of liberation by demanding policy changes that require more rigorous requirements for anti-cheating software, or more closely monitored game servers. By utilizing the tools at our disposal and trusting the process, it’s possible that in the near future we can achieve a true utopia for gamers. A liberation from the oppressive force of online trolls and cheaters.

Works Cited

  • Ashton, Graham. “Cheating in Esports.” The Esports Observer, Sports Business Journal, 27 May 2019,
  • Boxer, Jeffrey. Doping in Esports: A Growing Issue. Gotham Sports Network, 8 May 2022,
  • Harro, Bobbie., et al. “The Cycle of Liberation”. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2010. Pp. 627 – 634.
  • Johnson, Allan., et al. “What Can We Do”. Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2010. Pp. 621 – 627.
  • “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, 2022,
  • Velasquez, Manuel, et al. “A Framework for Ethical Decision Making” Markkula Center for
  • Applied Ethics, 8 Nov. 2021,
  • framework-for-ethical-decision-making/
  • Weston, Anthony. “Taking Values Seriously”. A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox. Oxford University Press, 2008. Pp. 97 – 112.