The Honest Gamers Study
For many, playing video games can be a way to blow off steam after a stressful week, or an opportunity to level-up skills on quiet evenings. But even for the most easygoing fan, it can be frustrating seeing gameplay disrupted or ruined by cheaters – other gamers who are utilizing various mods, hacks and bots to gain an unfair advantage over others. But how prevalent is the problem these days, and are there any video game franchises that are more susceptible to cheaters than others?
The Honest Gamers Study, created by Caziwoo, analyzes global search data and player stats to reveal how many people currently use cheats when playing video games, and name which games are most likely to see an influx of dishonest players. The study also identifies which country is home to most trustworthy gamers and which have a higher proportion of cheaters – and then looks at how cheating has evolved in the last five years.
The most common gaming cheats
Video game cheating can take many formats – such as cheat codes or modifications created by the original developers or via third-party software, subscription services that allow access to a multitude of hacks, or bots that play a game in place of a human to gain a competitive advantage. Using global search data collected from ahrefs, the study identified that over the last year, mods and hacks are the most popular form of cheating. This is despite often proving unreliable as they only tend to work on specific release versions of a game, and usually involve violating a software license agreement put in place by the game developer.
The most popular cheat remains one of the most well-known in the gaming world – the ‘motherlode’ cheat code, that gives Sims players 50,000 simoleons (the in-game currency). This withstanding popularity is likely due to the fact it works on all variants of the Sims – and most recently, the developers made Sims 4 free, so it’s likely searches for this code will rise even further.
Next up for popularity – overtaking bots, surprisingly – are third-party subscription services that allow players to access a multitude of cheat codes, hacks and mods for popular gaming titles. The most popular service by far is WeMod, which describes itself as ‘the world’s best application for modding thousands of single-player PC games’, including Cyberpunk 2077, Age of Empires and Football Manager.
It’s surprising these services have overtaken bots when it comes to search volume, given bots have long been considered one of the most prevalent issues in video games. When it comes to which bots people are searching for the most, it’s AimBot that comes out on top, which assists a gamer in aiming at a target when playing a first-person shooter title, increasing their likelihood of causing significant damage to opponents.
Generally speaking, gamers are most likely to use cheats in order to assist with their in-game health, through the likes of enhancing durability, adding extra lives, or increasing regenerative capabilities in order to last longer. Next up is aim-assistance (through the likes of AimBot) which improves aiming accuracy and impact to cause extra damage to competitors. And then – somewhat unsurprisingly – the next most-searched cheats are those that boost in-game finances (such as the motherlode cheat).
The most honest franchises
Even though cheating in video games is clearly popular, some franchises and titles will see a higher incidence of dishonesty than others – either due to their popularity, or the variety of available cheats.
Based on the search volume of cheats linked to the currently most popular and most-completed video games (as determined by howlongtobeat.com), the data reveals that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt reports the highest proportion of cheaters, followed by Hollow Night, and Stardew Valley. On the other end of the scale, it’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that has the lowest proportion of cheaters, and therefore may provide the most enjoyable gaming experience for honest players.
Some franchises are also prone to more cheating than others, as the data shows. By far, the video game franchise that sees the highest proportion of cheaters is Grand Theft Auto – which makes sense, given the widespread availability of cheat codes like highex (explosive ammo), gotgills (breathe underwater) and makeitrain (changes the weather). The Sims reports the second-highest volume of cheats, which is no surprise given ‘motherlode’ is the most popular code amongst players worldwide.
The most honest countries
As well as looking at video game cheating tendencies on a global scale, the study included a country-level comparison to reveal which geographies report the most dishonest tendencies. When cheat searches are measured against the country’s search volume behind the most popular and most-completed games, it’s Japan that has the highest likelihood of cheaters, followed by Spain and Singapore. On the other end of the scale, Cyprus is home to the most honest players as cheat searches accounted for a lower proportion of overall game searches, followed by Germany, and Latvia.
Interestingly, players in the U.S are considerably less likely to cheat than those in the UK, despite popular conception that America has a chronic cheating problem. Cheating is still rife in the States nonetheless, however, as the country reports the highest volume of searches around third-party cheating subscription services when compared to any other area analyzed. Players using these services are most likely to use these subscription services for Grand Theft Auto (GTA) cheats, while those in the UK are most likely to use cheats or hacks to gain an advantage in Pokemon.
Shifts in video game cheating
So with cheating clearly still proving a problem for many, how has the use of cheats changed in the last five years? Using Google Search Trends, the study reveals that searches for bots – including AimBot – have increased by almost a fifth (18%) over the last year specifically, with TriggerBot seeing the biggest rise in popularity over that period. This suggests there is still an appetite for bots and AI-generated gameplay, even if other types of cheating are generally more popular.
The use of third-party subscription services have also increased notably over the last five years, rising by two fifths (41%). WeMod has seen the biggest rise with searches quadrupling since 2017, pointing to the fast-increasing popularity of these services for single-player PC games. Another subscription service that has seen a rise in searches over the same period is gameanarchy (up 28%) – but recently, that service was shut down after an influx of complaints.
Even though it can be tempting to use cheats to gain an unfair advantage over competitors when playing games, many do find that the use of codes, hacks or bots spoils the playing experience. So much so that many gaming providers have taken steps to crack down on the use of cheats, threatening those who break the rules with permanent bans or in-game penalties as a deterrent. However, others argue that cheaters in online games can help teach developers what aspects of a game need improving or advancing, in order to meet demand that requires players to turn to cheating to fulfil.
However you view cheating in video games, it’s important to have fun when playing games online and ensure you have a positive experience.