Competitive Game Theory: Analysis of the Concept of "Cheap"

Hey everyone,

I’m trying to gather data (i.e. your opinions) for a serious analysis that I’m doing on the concept of “cheap” in competitive games. It’s going to take some space below to explain exactly what it is I’m doing and what I would like from you, so if you have the time and are willing to put some thought into an interesting psychological/linguistic issue, please keep reading.

First off, let me say that what I am NOT trying to do is discuss whether certain moves are “cheap” or “not cheap.” When it comes to that issue, I am 100% in the Playing to Win camp. In other words, the vast majority of moves and tactics are not cheap, and there is nothing wrong with using them. But despite this undeniable truth about competitive games, it’s still a common event to hear one person calling another cheap - on forums, in online gaming lobbies, and in person. The question I want to ask is, What are the conditions that have to be met in order for one person to call a move or tactic “cheap”?

Some people will say that scrubs make cries of “Cheap!” at random, and will call any tactic that causes them to lose “cheap”. No doubt there are people like this, but I do not think it’s universal. I’m looking for the examples where it isn’t random, where there is something specific about the way a tactic is being used that registers in a person’s mind and elicits a cry of “Cheap!” For example, if you beat someone in SF using nothing but fireballs and they call you cheap, you might think “Bah, this scrub’s just sore about losing. OF COURSE he would call me cheap.” But is that really the case? Would he have called you cheap if you’d beaten him with a more diverse series of moves? Maybe not. So the question is, Why? Why does spamming one move over and over get you called cheap, whereas using a variety of moves to own someone does not? Why is it common for people to call projectile spam “cheap,” but not, say, medium punch spam? Or take an example from Super Smash Bros. I have a friend that I used to play with who doesn’t think spamming any of the moves is cheap, nor does he think that any of the other tactics in the game are cheap (even if they cause him to lose), except for TWO. They are, spiking people to their deaths when they’re knocked off of the stage, and Edge-hogging. These tactics are interesting because they break the pattern of “spamming = cheap”. I don’t have the skill in SSB to spam these moves; if I’m lucky, I successfully score a kill using edge-hogging maybe once a game. Most of the time, I don’t even make it to the ledge before my friend does. And yet something about these 2 situations still cause my friend’s Cheapness Alarm to go off. Again, the question I want to answer here is “Why?” Why did this move in this situation cause a certain player to label the tactic as “cheap?”

So, like I said above, what I’m looking for from you guys is data. I need specific examples from your past or present experience in which you felt something was cheap. It doesn’t matter if your concept of “cheapness” has changed over the years. Probably all of us can remember a time when we said or thought that certain moves were cheap - or if you still think that way now, even better! What I need you to do is get inside your own head and think about the situation and why you felt it was cheap. If the other guy was spamming a move, why did you feel that spamming was cheap? Would spamming any move have been cheap, or only certain moves? Or if there was a cheap tactic that someone used only infrequently, what made that tactic cheap? Can you think of any situations in which it wouldn’t have been cheap? Or to take an extreme example, let’s say you have a friend you play with who calls you cheap every time you beat him. Can you think of a way to win against this person that would NOT cause him to call you cheap? If so, how is that method different from all the others? Basically, what is the pattern behind the word “cheap?”

I just want to mention one little caveat, and that is I’m not looking for examples where people were flagrantly cheating. Cheating is different from whatever people do that gets them called cheap. Cheating is breaking the rules- hitting the other guy’s buttons to mess him up, or using fancy technology in an online game to make only your opponent experience lag. It’s “cheap” that I want to ask about.

And that about sums up my request. The only other thing I’ll say is it would be great if people who comment check back once in a while to see if I’ve asked any questions regarding what you wrote; I imagine it’s going to take a bit of discussion back and forth to get to the bottom of this or to understand everyone’s examples.

I appreciate examples/ideas from any game in any competitive game genre - with the caveat that if you mention a game I’m not familiar with I might have to ask you a lot of questions about it.:sweat:

That’s all! Thanks everyone, and I look forward to a good discussion. :bgrin:

It’s simple! “Cheap!” is used to describe any move that someone can’t figure out how to counter or defend. Of course, once you realize that your opponent can’t counter or defend a particular move / combo then you tend to repeat it until they’re dead. Thus the correlation between “Cheap!” and a particular move being repeated.

It’s that easy.

I’m always up for another cheap thread.

I think it’s important to point out that even David Sirlin acknowledged that game designers make mistakes and when people cry “cheap” they are essentially accusing the designers of making a mistake, or creating a flawed/unintended situation.

He says it’s rare, but he allows for the possibility as well.

Throwing is cheap.

Here’s your answer. Cheap is anything that is overpowered, usually available to 1 person, and is spammed to get a win. If what you’re doing does not fall into those 3 categories, then the person is complaining. The main reason for this is because of balance, and that the makers of the game didn’t/couldn’t make the game perfectly balanced.

People get so offended when they get called cheap, but they need to understand that if what you’re doing meets the above criteria…then you’re cheap. If you don’t like being called that, then do something else.

a 78 cent taco at taco bell is cheap.

Me winning/losing to a move spam is me winng/losing becuase you/I suck.

I gotta agree with this. In SF2 throws took off around 30% health and there really wasn’t anything you can do about it.

I haven’t really seen anything in SF4 that screams cheap except for people who pick Sagat :rofl:

I think cheap is when you keep doing something that isn’t a good idea in a real match, but works just because your opponent doesn’t know how to defend against it.

Eg Bison headstoming. Someone doesn’t know how to block that, let alone counter. If you turtle in the corner just throwing out headstomps knowing the other guy doesn’t know what to do about it, that’s cheap.

Ask yourself this question? Why did you post this in the SF4 section when it is obviously a very general topic?

I mean, you block, and STILL get hit? If that isn’t cheap I don’t know what is. :rofl:

For me, cheap is when a player abuses by using a move that gives him advantage over the oponent.
When I was noob-er :rofl: I remember that I didnt know how to avoid hadoken - HK when landing. That’s what I’d call cheap

That seems like a good answer, but there are some examples that make it seem like it’s not quite that easy.

First, sometimes the opponent knows how to defend against your move, but calls you cheap anyway. Imagine you’re fireball spamming someone in SF4, and they’re using a combination of FBs, FAs, blocks, and jumps to close the gap between you and them. Let’s also say that they do have the ability to close in on you, though not without some difficulty or irritation. I can imagine the opponent working on closing the gap with you, while mumbling to himself something like “stupid cheap fireball bullshit.” That’s not just an imagined scenario, in fact - it’s something I’ve seen happen. So why is the opponent calling the spammer cheap, when he does know the defense/counter?

Or what about moves that there is no way to counter or defend? In Smash Bros., if you absolutely need to grab the ledge to get back on the stage, and your opponent is proficient at edge-hogging, there’s pretty much nothing you can do. Some would call this tactic “cheap”. But let’s say you FA someone in SF4 and they go into a crumple state. You can now do pretty much anything to them that you want, and there is no defense. I think in this situation you are a lot less likely to get called cheap. Then again, if you’re camping spawn points in an FPS, that can be pretty hard to defend against once your opponent gets the advantage, and it’s pretty likely to get you called cheap. In all of these cases, the opponent has put the player in a position that they can’t really get out of, but only in some of the cases is it considered cheap. So what’s the difference between these scenarios?

Lastly, there are interesting differences between competitive games and competitive sports when it comes to cheap. Winning with the same play in football or basketball won’t often get you called cheap. Winning with the same setup in an FPS or RTS might. Again, why is one cheap and not the other?

The only “cheap” thing would be something that breaks the game and is only available to one player (As in a tech that is only available to a P2 side because of a glitch, and P1 couldn’t do even with the same character, see: Smash Bros). If it’s available to both players, it’s fair game.

“cheap” can sometimes be codeword for a poorly documented feature or abuse of a glitch.

it’s understandable in a game like street fighter 4, wherein many competitive techniques and skill sets require prior knowledge of street fighter games and/or are poorly and in some cases completely undocumented in official texts. a good personal example of this would be sakura trial 4.3, nothing up until that point [approximately 450 online matches, unlocking and playing every character] suggested to me that a dash immediately after a focus attack would effect how an opponent would reset after a crouching medium kick, so naturally i couldn’t understand why Dan would auto-recover/block after the kick, breaking every combo attempt. I only managed to beat the trial after i asked about it here and learned of the dash technique.

that would be an example of something sufficiently counter intuitive that a new player may consider it ‘cheap’.

When it comes to glitching, sf4 and sf games in general are in a camp all of its own. fighting games are literally the only genre that accepts abuse of glitches as ‘skill’. [mostly because they require godly skill and timing… in a game about skill and timing] in any other genre, glitchers are ostracised and hated, so naturally someone would be a little confused coming here and finding a community that actively supports the perceived abuse of the game. for that matter, most of these perceived ‘glitches’ are actually examples of the first category: poorly documented features that in some cases, were originally glitches that have been kept on as part of the game.

beyond that there’s the usual [omg spammer/i cant stop move x therefore cheap/why isn’t character y a carbon copy of x just with a different skin/wtf he punched my foot and won?] ‘cheap’ whining.

Did you read this first?

“Received Warning”


Right. Those are tactics that could also be called “broken” or “unbalanced”. I’m not really concerned with them for this analysis because, for the most part, I understand them. They make the game less deep or less strategic, and therefore less fun or intriguing. On the other hand, the circumstances that cause people to cry cheap when a move isn’t broken or unbalanced are less clear to me.

See my response above. What I’m curious about is the phenomenon of calling moves cheap that aren’t unbalanced.

That’s an interesting angle. Let me ask you this - if someone calls Bison headstomping cheap, is it because they don’t know how to defend against it, or because they don’t know that there is a way to defend against it? In other words, if someone were getting owned by headstomps and they thought to themselves, “I know there must be a way to beat this - if only I knew it!”, would they still be likely to call Bison cheap? Or would only the person who thought there was NO way to defend against headstomps cry cheap?

I did take some time to think about where I should post this, and my decision basically amounts to this is the section I thought I would get the best response in, in terms of what things people are willing to talk about in what sections. General discussion is too general, fighting game discussion too specific, and while SF4 discussion at first seems only mildly relevant, I thought that a lot of what people know on this forum and would be apt to discuss was SF tactics. SF, and SF4 in particular, is also one of the competitive games that I am the most familiar with, so I thought the connection to SF4 would be beneficial on my side of things as well. Not to mention this seems to be the most populated forum, and thus might generate the most ideas.

So what would you say is the difference between using a move that gives you an advantage (which is the only way to win), and abusing a move that gives you an advantage? Why does one feel cheap and the other, not?

Crying cheap is usually just a defense mechanism for losers.

cheap is Akuma-SSF2T