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Is using addons cheating?


I was idly browsing the blue tracker this morning over at Wowhead, as you do, when I spotted a thread asking whether using addons is cheating. In the instance of this post, the writer is discussing Deadly Boss Mods' PvP functionality in battlegrounds where it calculates how quickly either faction will win if the current situation remains exactly as it is. Blue poster Taepsilum responded to the thread with the following.

It's not cheating at all, don't worry, all the addon does is a calculation based on several variables to tell you when you should expect a given outcome if the variables remain constant. That's why sometimes the time on those addons isn't very accurate, because some of those variables are dependent on players behaviour and aren't just a visual aid of fixed in-game timers, making an absolutely accurate result truly unpredictable.

So if for example you're in Arathi Basin, your team has 5 nodes and the addon says you're going to win in 1 minute, that's only true if you keep those 5 nodes until the end, and that's something the addon can't really be sure about, so *it will only show a pseudo-prediction based on instantaneous information, if anything changes, the prediction changes as well.

Now, the blue poster knows addons aren't cheating. The OP knows addons aren't cheating. I know addons aren't cheating; you probably do too. But that doesn't prevent them from being decried as such by those who think playing with addons is somehow cheating.

Some people, for whatever reason, don't like to play with addons. Now that's just fine and dandy -- each to their own -- but I do like to play with certain addons enabled. I don't consider my vital addon suite that large, although compared to some it certainly is. Neither approach is wrong.

So we've established that as far as Blizzard are concerned, using addons is definitely not cheating. But let's consider the potential arguments against addons.

Argument: Addons make the game too easy.

Some argue that addons like Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) that give visual and audio clues to impending boss abilities make the game too easy, essentially turning the player into an automaton who follows instructions from a computer. If you're a regular user of DBM, switch it off when you go back into an old raid that you've done a few times, and see just how much you relied on it to warn you that things were coming. DBM employs timers, but bosses do also give audio or visual clues as to when they're doing their abilities. Some might yell out a set phrase, and some might assume a certain stance, but it seems that certain bosses abilities are almost tailored around the use of addons such as DBM or Bigwigs, giving no additional clues.

Without a doubt, the most hardcore of raiders use these addons as much as the rest of the playerbase. Watch the Vodka vs. Method race again, if you don't believe me. Addons such as DBM allow these players to focus on the rest of the game, their rotations, their DPS, their cooldowns, and their healing, and other addons such as Skada or Recount let them know if they're performing as they should be.

Let's compare that for a second to PvP. A while back, Cynwise over at Cynwise's Warcraft Manual wrote a piece on the PvP addon Healers Have to Die (HHTD). Cynwise's piece extols the virtues of HHTD, but Mike B. doesn't like to use it, as he thinks it's as good as cheating. HHTD is definitely an addon that causes controversy, not least because people who are against its use have ammunition from PvP tournaments, where players are prevented from using any addons at all as they take each other on. Does it make the game too easy? Not in my opinion. Do I hate it, as a regular PvP healer? Yup.

Argument: Addons stop you from playing the game "properly."

It seems reasonable to state that addons such as these do make the game easier, but I wonder if that's a bad thing. DBM, as I've mentioned, allows players to focus on their rotations and so forth in order to perform better -- but if they never switch off the addons, are they really expanding their skills to an end other than working through raids at higher efficiency?

Of course, that begs us to ask if there's a greater raiding goal than burning through content as fast as possible. Does a player really need to be able to predict the boss's abilities without DBM to be considered competent by their peers, or just tank, heal, or DPS well, wherever they're getting their information from? I wonder if the new challenge modes arriving in Mists will lead to challenge mode tournaments where addons are forbidden.

Making a similar PvP argument, Cynwise argues convincingly that addons such as HHTD help players to learn as well as to perform better. HHTD helps train your eye to spot healers by things other than a giant cross sitting over their head. You'll begin to notice that players who hang back rather than being right in the melee, whose hands are often above their heads rather than pointing at people, and whose spells are green or pale yellow as opposed to blue or purple are often the same ones who have the big crosses on their heads. With the help of an addon, you'll learn to spot enemy healers, and that's a good thing.

Argument: Addons remove the level playing field.

I've heard this argument before, and I think I disagree with it, despite being ever the partisan. All addons are doing is taking information freely available to players and presenting it in a different, usually clearer, way. DBM only knows when abilities are coming by timers; as I've mentioned above, there are cues from many bosses when they're about to do something. And you could achieve the same by timing fights yourself, if you so wished.

In our initial example above, all DBM was doing was working out points gained over time. You could do that too, if you knew how many points you got per second for holding a certain number of bases in Arathi Basin. And as we've discussed, with the healers, HHTD just points out something you could work out yourself more clearly.

So why use addons? Well, why not? You might learn something. You might perform better.

What do you think? Do you use addons? Are you vehemently for them or vehemently against them -- or are you not really that fussed? And what do you think about their use? Do they make the game too easy? Do they stop you from playing properly?

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