“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.”
― Sophocles, Antigone
So it finally happened. Whether because of your own sloppiness, ignorance, tiredness, or malice someone has caught you cheating. There is no denying it, they have presented proof to a judge and now the punishments and condemnations begin to flow. Over the next month or so you will be the topic of countless blogs and podcasts as people argue over your infringement and whether the punishment was appropriate. Some people will openly deride you while others simply treat you with suspicion and caution in your future games. Is there any hope? Can you salvage a reputation tarnished in such a manner? What would a path to redemption look like? This article will not definitively answer any of these questions, but it will seek to further the conversation.
Cheating isn’t unique to 40K. There are countless sports that have dealt with scandals that range from relatively minor infractions to major scandals. Fans react differently to a fringe player being caught taking performance enhancing drugs then they do to celebrity players (such as those accused of tampering with a ball). However, when these stories break out, you never see a long-winded article discussing “Can we ever trust Tom Brady again?” because we know that such sports are policed far more by referees and rules then by any “gentlemen’s agreements”. Since the competitive 40K scene is not in that place, and likely will never be in that place, such a discussion needs to occur here because it is almost impossible to play the game without some level of trust in your opponent.
As I mentioned earlier, we don’t discuss players in major sporting leagues “earning trust back” after an infringement because we have some faith that should they violate the rules again they will face a stricter punishment. While this is not universal, I think you will see similar blanket standards begin to crop up for the 40K community. The presence of a standard that applies to all players, and punishes infractions regardless of intent, (as I heard one podcast wisely advocate for) is an important part of the trust-building process.
Fundamentally the only way for a player to credibly rebuild the trust of his or her opponents is by establishing a clean record of play. What other alternatives are there? Should we sentence lawbreakers to 10 crusade campaigns, 3 apocalypse battles and 2 painting tutorials? Demand a heartfelt apology (whatever that means?) All these things have little purpose if they are simply seen as obstacles to be overcome. There is no concrete path a person can follow that will lead to absolute redemption. Some individuals will always regard you as a cheater irrespective of your later actions. As I said this article is not able to recommend a clear path, especially as it is so subjective, but it can provide some indicators I personally look for when assessing those who seek to atone for their past wrongs.
- Take responsibility. For most individuals this usually takes the form of an apology that is sent out to the community. Its effectiveness is largely driven by the communication skills of the author and will be inevitably picked apart and declared to be “insincere crocodile tears” by some portion of the public. But I like to pay attention to the wording and see if the individual owns their actions or seeks to blame something else.
- Avoidance of temptation. For some people certain actions or situations will cause them to be more tempted to cheat then others. It could be driven by hunger, alcohol, internal or external pressure, etc. Few things show me someone is trying to change more then watching them take steps to avoid these triggers or situations. This will likely be invisible to you unless you know the person well or if they choose to disclose it in some fashion, but it can show a true change of heart.
- Own the Burden of Proof While it can be tedious, meticulously walking your opponent through the steps you are taking, and going out of your way to make it easy for your opponent to verify your roles help restore trust. When I play games, especially the first time a unit attacks I will verbally count the number of attacks they are generating (for example these 5 terminators have 2 attacks base, plus 1 for shock assault plus one more for the sergeant, so 16 total). As you proceed through the game you may be able to dispense with this (depending on your opponent) but explicitly explaining buffs and giving your opponent the opportunity to correct and/or question you is important in being an trusted gamer.
Unfortunately, all these above examples can be faked relatively easily (if you even know the person well enough to witness them). This is especially true if the individual has average or above-average social skills. Furthermore, even if the individual truly renounced their old ways and played every future battle in a manner that was above reproach, there would be corners of the community who would still regard them as a cheater (yay essentialism). As we are unable to judge true motivations behind actions, we can never accurately judge intent, and maybe we shouldn’t try.
Perhaps the only way to restore the community’s faith in you as a player is to play well within the boundaries of the established rules for the rest of your career. There are countless athletes that have achieved tremendous things after transgressing in a very serious manner. Part of their popularity is doubtless due to their ability but also through their ability to stay clean. You will likely never experience the same level of trust you once had, but by owning your sins and working to re-establish your reputation you can show the community what your true character is.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!