Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

The move to keep cheaters out of games is one that's been widely discussed for some time now, but what happens when the anti-cheating mechanisms get a little too ambitious? Is Blackstone's Formulation right? Where do we draw the line on cheats in games and how far is too far? It's a thorny set of questions, make no mistake, but these are questions that need to be asked nonetheless as EA's Punkbuster mechanism reportedly got a little out of control recently and ended up delivering cheating bans to the last people who should have got same: non-cheaters.

Players in “Battlefield 3” recently found themselves on the bad end of Punkbuster bans, and that's made for some bad blood between EA—and its third-party developer Even Balance—and the gaming community, particularly those who took the bans without cause. EA—according to a statement found on its official help site—is “working with our partners at Even Balance to get this resolved as quickly as possible.” But it also notes that not only can its game advisors not overturn Punkbuster bans, but said advisors aren't even capable of accessing Punkbuster bans to inform those banned why a ban was issued in the first place.

Punkbuster was actually big before the release of comparable software from Valve, the Valve Anti-Cheat mechanism. While most have made the move to Valve's version—notably, even EA's “Titanfall” uses Valve's version—older games like “Battlefield 3” still turn to Punkbuster, even some newer games do, and that leaves a lot of players in a bad position.

This is about the last thing that EA needed right now, particularly with its ongoing goal of not being voted Worst Company in America any more on the Consumerist rankings. Though it missed the hit this year, falling early on in the rankings, this kind of thing is not going to help when it comes time to compile 2015's rankings. This brings us back to the Blackstone Formulation: “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Ben Franklin's version took that number up to 100 guilty rather than one innocent suffer, but whether the number is 10, 100, or 100 million, the critical point remains: those who do no wrong need not fear reprisal, and the system must be established such that the innocent do not fear reprisal.

If Punkbuster is condemning the innocent, then perhaps it needs to be removed for good. With few if any such incidents coming out of Valve's version, it's likely a good thing that the move was made on most games' parts long ago. Frankly, it sounds like the job should be completed, particularly here. A game without cheats is an important goal to have, particularly in multiplayer games, but getting that cheat-free game at the cost of banning innocents...that's not a set of ends that justifies the means. EA needs to get on the ball with this, quickly, or it may find itself in an unenviable position on the next big Consumerist list.