September 4, 2009 by Tim

Let me start with a little disclaimer: I don’t currently play Team Fortress 2. I have nothing invested in the game, or this issue. I don’t really care if people have hats or how they got them.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain to you what I’ve gathered, as an outsider looking in.

Valve has been pretty good about adding new content updates to Team Fortress 2. One of these includes class hats that can be equipped on your character. Valve decided that the fairest way to distribute these hats was to use a completely random system. So you would just randomly get hats while playing.

Players decided to create idling programs/servers, so that they could sit logged in for hours on end and get these hats. Valve said “That’s cheating” and removed all the hats from any player who used one of these idling programs (while simultaneously giving a free hat to players who opted not to use idling programs). Lots of people got angry.

Now, I’ve talked to a few people about this, I’ve listened to a few different arguments, and I can not find one scrap of moral highground for these idlers to stand on. As I said, I don’t really care about TF2 hats, who has them or doesn’t, etc. But this is a symptom of a deeper issue that plagues online games, and that is people feeling entitled to rewards they didn’t earn.

It’s why gold sellers make big bucks and continue to thrive, and it’s why issue like “Hatgate” continue to happen. People want their status symbols as quickly and as easily as they can get them, and they don’t care how.

But again, I’m not even really interested in talking about that… that’s an issue that goes beyond games, to human nature itself. No, what I wanted to touch on today are the people who cheat, get caught, and then rage out at the fact that anyone had the sheer audacity to discipline them.

I understand that some people lost some legitimately earned hats because maybe they used the idler program a couple of times. It’s a bummer that all of your completely unimportant, intangible digital headwear was removed, but you took that chance when you used a third-party program to cheat the game. If it was an MMO and you were using a third party program to dupe gold, and the developer couldn’t track down exactly how much of your gold was legitimate, you’d better believe that you’d lose it all. And you’d be thanking your stars that your whole account wasn’t banned.

“But Valve never told us that idling was frowned upon.”

Really? It never crossed your mind that idling in servers didn’t fall within the spirit in which the developers implemented these rewards? That said-idling requires the use of a third-party program didn’t at any point raise any red flags that it might be against the ToS? Is “Don’t cheat our game” really something that has to be explicitly verbalized for you to realize that it’s not going to be met with thumbs up? Do we need to tell you “Don’t punch kittens” lest we find you out there, punching kittens, with a bewildered look on your face like “But nobody ever told me punching kittens was frowned upon, durr.”

“But Valve’s system wasn’t perfect. They told us we’d be able to trade hats, and they didn’t implement that yet. We only cheated because the system wasn’t perfect.”

That may be true, perhaps Valve’s ‘random hat drop’ system wasn’t perfect. Item drops like this in FPS’ is new country, with a road-map drawn in spit on a cocktail napkin. But saying “we only cheated because their system wasn’t perfect” is like getting up in front of a judge and saying “Your honor, I only robbed that liquor store because the economy is in the shitter” and expecting leniency.

And of course “But I waaaaaanted them, waah” probably isn’t going to get a lot of sympathy as an argument either.

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh here, in which case, allow me to reiterate that getting upset over some hats (HATS, people!) in a video game is probably one of the most ludicrously ridiculous things I’ve seen. Ten years from now, are you or anyone you know going to give a shit about what hats you had in Team Fortress 2? No, of course not. So why are you wasting all this energy raging about it?

You idled to get hats, and Valve called you on it and took away your hats. That sucks. But don’t act like Valve is the criminal here just because you got caught cheating the system.

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5 years ago

It’s been about ten years now. Does anyone give a shit about what hats they had in Team Fortress 2?