I feel like we have threads about cheaters already, but I was unable to find them. Also pretty sure we did episodes on cheating. Maybe there were just several discussions about cheaters that ended up scattered across other relevant threads. I think maybe it’s because we use those stories as news, and the discussions get stuck to random episode threads. Anyway, I saw two just today, so now there’s a thread to collect these all in the same place.

For those who don’t get the joke, here’s the short version:


This is not a good cheater but it blew up in speedrunning, a while ago and was fun to watch.

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Holy shit. Even after what happened in 2018.

“When doping conspiracies become a crime under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, cheaters will be in U.S. prisons and clean athletes will be better protected.”

Wait, what? Prison?

For people unaware, the Astros were caught stealing signs, which is legal, but were using electronic means to do so, which is illegal. The penalty they are receiving are unprecedentedly huge, but they still did not revoke their championship.

I’ve talked about it before, but fining and punishing players or teams for cheating without also revoking their championship is mechanically the same exact thing as pay to win. The message it sends to everyone else is “If you are willing to pay these costs, you can break the rules and still be the champs.”

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Financial doping. That’s a new one for me.

Meanwhile, MLB did… nothing to the Astros?

They did a lot to them, but they should rescind the title.

Yeah, happened to me once. Malfunctioning violet wand, always check your equipment carefully, folks.

the greatest cheat in Olympic history hangs up.

Hello, yes, SI? I have East Germany on the other line, they would like a word.

The worst part is that there are only two ways to detect this.

  1. In-person play
  2. Anomaly detection algorithms

But, #2 is a big problem. The meta of chess is completely stagnant, and the frontiers are almost entirely around novel ways to prolong a game and force a draw. So players who study that evolving meta will play like AIs. A player who is very good is indistinguishable from an AI.

The methods the article describes (“a model that detects cheating as the deviation from the proclivities of an honest human player”) are interesting, in that they could be looking at an individual player and determining whether or not they progressed to advanced strategies “too quickly” or make ugly beginner mistakes in the midst of professional-level play.

It could work for Chess, just due to the level of investment and skill necessary to even get to that level, and the relatively small community of grandmasters. You can basically assume anyone playing at grandmaster level online is cheating, and seek evidence to the contrary or ban them, and you’ll rarely-if-ever be wrong.

FWIW, the only reason this doesn’t happen for other board games is simply that the AIs for most games are worse than even a moderately skilled player.

Chess, backgammon, checkers, etc… have achieved either perfect play or “better than any human will ever achieve again” play. But Root? A rando at PAX would beat that AI. Politics, more than two players, asymmetry, lack of analysis, etc… make these games far less vulnerable.

Even if a god-tier AI were developed for Root, T&E, Settlers, Carcassonne, it wouldn’t matter. It would still be vulnerable to luck, politics, and other hidden information. The same things that god-tier players are also vulnerable to. I imagine that even an intermediate Root player that had an AI suggesting moves to them would often dismiss the AI’s advice, usually for political reasons.

Only the perfect information games are truly vulnerable.

Eh, if you played a political game with an AI, it would ensure that your micro-optimizations were all perfect. You guide it by telling it “I want to hurt this player more” or “Kingmake this player”, and get feedback in terms of it showing you advanced positional heuristics and suggestions for who to attack.

It would be like playing CS with an aimbot. You still have to move and decide what to do. But as soon as you encounter an enemy, you are a perfect shooter.

But it would, in any case, distill the game to pure politics or pure luck. It would turn any game into the same balloon-popping game.

Bungie has actually taken an interesting step recently - they outright sued the most popular cheatmaker, which seems to have worked, at least for now.

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