"Cheaters never prosper"—for long, anyway. Hackers in online games might win some matches, but will they win the war?

Developers for some of the biggest competitive-online PC games—Call of Duty: WarzonePUBG, Destiny 2, and Valoranthave announced new initiatives to combat cheating on their digital battlefields. At a time when PC gaming is breaking records for player count, even established games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch are struggling to control a growing crowd of cheaters.

If you've ever played a competitive PC game online, you've probably encountered a cheater. Game hacks and cheat software can enable cheaters to see through walls, teleport, fly around, be invulnerable, and aim and shoot automatically without ever missing. The hacks are purchased in online communities, then stitched into the code of the game like malware. Their effects range from subtle to outrageous, but they all give an unfair leg-up to their users. Game developers, who want their competitive games to be fair and healthy, have to play a constant game of cat-and-mouse to stamp out cheating.

The War Against Cheating

Each developer grapples with cheaters in different ways. Infinity Ward, the creators of Call of Duty Warzone, detects which players are cheating and then pits them against each other in hacker-only matches.

Developers bring in full software suites to detect and mitigate cheating. Respawn Entertainment uses Easy Anti-Cheat in their game Apex Legends and banned upwards of 350,000 cheaters last year. PUBG is proud of its anti-cheat BattlEye, but admits that hackers still "excel at adapting to our measures.”

Bungie, who put out Destiny 2, said in a blog post that cheating in their game was "up roughly 50 percent since January" and explained what they were doing about it. But fans are still angry.

Some players have taken the fight into their own hands. In the Overwatch community, concerned players can join the Overwatch Police Department, which monitors and infiltrates cheating rings to find the latest cheats and shut them down.

"It's me! Someone must be hacking." Courtesy of Activision Blizzard.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive developer Valve legitimized that sort of player-reliant system—experienced players are appointed as virtual jurors review suspected cheaters.

Nobody wants cheaters, but eliminating cheating is a constant effort. John McDonald, senior software engineer at Valve, told The Verge: 

“Eventually we realized that cheating itself was a goal for some users and they were going to return no matter how many of their accounts we banned." 

Projections for the Future

Valorant, a 5-vs-5 hero shooter from the makers of League of Legends, hasn't publically released yet. Courtesy of Riot Games.

The case to watch is Valorant. It's currently the hottest game on Twitch, but is still in a closed beta-testing stage. Even now, it's had a deluge of hackers. In response, Valorant comes with an aggressive (and controversial) anti-cheat system that needs to be perpetually running on a computer to allow Valorant to play. The developers, Riot Games, have also put out a bounty of $100,000 for any security researchers that find a hole in their anti-cheat software.

Hopefully, when Valorant releases publically, it can show the way to handle hacking going forward.

Have you played with cheaters in an online game before? How do you feel about cheating in a video game? Comment below!