A team of researchers exploring how players bend the rules in social media games and judge others for doing the same has found that cheaters sometimes prosper on Facebook.
What does it mean to cheat in a Facebook game? Is it any different from breaking the rules in a traditional videogame like World of Warcraft? New research shows that players often dismiss the seriousness of social network games, meaning cheating isn't so serious when it's done on Facebook.
Concordia communications researchers Mia Consalvo and Irene Serrano Vazquez polled 151 social media gamers between the ages of 18 and 70. They asked them to respond to questions about why people would choose to cheat on a social media game.
They wanted to know how do players define cheating in general? How do players define cheating in social network games? What cheating-related practices do players engage in while playing social network games? And how is cheating in social network games conceptualized differently by players, compared to cheating in more traditional console- and PC-based games?
Clearly, rules are not the same thing for every player, says Consalvo, adding that for some participants, specific actions or practices do not determine what is cheating, instead, they define cheating by the purposes or motives behind those actions or practices.
The majority of survey respondents reported at least some kind of cheating: they admitted to playing social network games to help friends (65 per cent) or family members (58.3 per cent) advance their scores, and to asking friends (52.1 per cent) or family (50 per cent) to play a social network game in order to advance their own scores, and to adding strangers (53.9 per cent) to do the same.
A high number of participants admitted to purchasing currency to advance play (40.2 per cent), creating multiple accounts (31.1 per cent) and logging into someone else's account (20.6 per cent). The use of cheat codes, a means of cheating requiring greater technical skill, was a much rarer practice among participants, only 8.2 per cent admitted to doing so.
Players believe cheating might be different based on the platform on which play takes place, says Consalvo, noting that "hey believe social network games are not 'real' games, so you can't cheat at them.
Consalvo hopes future studies will consider how playing with real profiles affects players' game ethics and their attitudes toward various practices.
The study appears in New Media and Society.