Is it cheating to fake achievements?

It was only a matter of time before people figured out how to fake achievements in Warcraft.

It’s become quite common for people putting together PUGs and raids to ask prospective members to link achievements, to prove that they know the fights or have beaten them before. It was probably inevitable. The ability to ‘boast’ publically about your in-game achievements has made them the ultimate skill currency.

The downside was always that this depended on Blizzard-definitions of skill. There aren’t any achievements for raid leading, for example, which is where it might be most glaringly useful. (You want me to sign up for your raid? Prove you know what you’re doing?) In any case, if you want to show that you are a skilful player, now you can prove it.

Or can you?

I was reading this discussion on the official forums last week, which is all about people using addons to link achievements that they haven’t actually completed. I laughed. I have limitless faith in the ability of players to find ways around stupid rules with which they don’t agree.

And I’m also sure that someone out there is working on an addon to check the official achievement lists published by Blizzard in the armoury to verify whether a linked achievement is real or not. It’s like the hacker/anti-hacker wars all over again.

But  is it cheating to lie to someone about your achievements in an online game? Well no. You can say what you like as long as it isn’t offensive. There’s nothing in the EULA that says you have to always tell the truth to other players. Blizzard have stepped in before to  stop certain types of misdirection on the auction house (e.g. people listing really expensive items next to really cheap ones to try to lure the illiterate into buying both by mistake), but they don’t get overly involved in personal disputes.

What if you fake that the message actually came from the in-game interface? This one is tricker. Back in MUSH days, we called this spoofing and spoofing another player meant that you made it look as though they had said or done something when actually it was  you. It was viewed as funny but impolite. You see this also in bboards, where you can edit a reply to make it look as though someone said something which they didn’t. Again, can be funny, not very polite.

Faking a message from the game engine is edgier because it’s a kind of appeal to authority – but to my mind, still in the category of funny but a bit naughty. If nothing else, it teaches players the valuable lesson: don’t believe everything you read online. If people really want to see if you know your stuff, perhaps they’ll have to actually talk to you, check your gear in person, or go look it up for themselves.

What do you think? Cheating or not?