I have been a cheater for as long as I can remember. It started innocently enough, learning how to do magic tricks, and quickly evolved into card counting, stacking decks, marking cards, and dealing from the bottom of the stack. Cheating just had an incredible thrill to me, more so than even winning. When board games became popular with my group of friends, it only got worse, but, eventually, I came to the realisation that it ruined my friends’ fun and stopped (almost) completely. I moved on instead to rule bending, making infinity turn decks in the likes of Dominion (Rio Grande Games) and watching my opponents simply give up because I had just played with myself for a solid 10 minutes. It amuses me greatly to see a system break within itself, even if exploiting it still makes me lose.
So this week I’ve been doing just that in various Minecraft Hunger Games servers. Vague rules were thoroughly abused, hiding took precedence over killing, as did running away, buckets were used as often as physically possible, and, in consequence, banhammers were liberally applied to me.
Large servers are mostly immune. They have been dealing with my kind for far too long and have put up multiple countermeasures to avoid such shenanigans. Buckets are eerily absent, crafting is not allowed, blocks can be broken but reappear instantly, team-creation with PvP-disabling is not enabled, water is never deeper than two blocks, arenas are small, traps cannot be made, rules are extensive and clear, and final players are teleported into an even smaller arena for a quick final fight. I still managed to get banned by constantly running away from combat, even in the final arena, and by trying to make excessively large teams, but even that was difficult. It bothered me immensely that hunger had almost nothing to do with these Hunger Games, and were mostly ad hoc PvP arenas with often solely superficial themes shared with the moniker. As hard as I tried, I could not roleplay my beloved Peeta Mellark.
Not that they are entirely immune to other kinds of cheating. A cursory search of the most popular Hunger Game MC arenas yield a plethora of detailed maps and paths to obtain the most chests as quickly as possible along with strategies required to win. To me, this is simply anathema to what I thought Hunger Games and Minecraft as a whole represent; emergent play and the ability to improvise strange stratagems in order to win. Instead, I headed to the “small” servers, often exclusively dedicated to HG Minecraft, where my itch could perhaps finally be scratched.
I was surprised to discover that many of these smaller servers had been set up in order to combat this cookie-cutter fast food Hunger Games, and it was glorious. Mobs, traps, temples, elongated gameplay, artificially reduced availability of food, dangerous terrain, spectators or hosts as sponsors, and the ability to hide. It was far closer to what I initially expected after reading and watching the Hunger Game books and movies, and as a bonus, what had been considered “cheating”, making teams and hiding, due to breaking implicit rules on the larger servers was simply my style of gameplay in these servers. I could be Peeta Mellark in all his muddy glory, I was happy, and I wasn’t even cheating.