The Long Awaited Cheating Discourse Blog

When I wrote my blog on diversity in quiz I got chatting to a fellow quizzer who said

Before we can make quiz more diverse we need to sort out the issue of cheating.

Whilst my instinct is “No, we can do both at the same time” it has stuck with me because what could be more alienating to anyone joining quiz than a sense that whatever you do you cannot compete with someone who is cheating.

In the last few weeks we have had In KFL two players were banned due to suspicions from the organiser. In OQL a player was banned for cheating in friendlies and suspected cheating in the main quiz with another quizzer caught cheating when he gave the answer to the next question instead of the one he was asked (like a weird version of the Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch)

What is cheating? In quiz it takes many forms, especially in an online quiz. It is easy to spot the person who is googling away, less easy to know if there is someone else in the room mouthing or writing down answers. The nature of some quizzes is that they are scheduled by participants so everyone plays the quiz at a different times meaning a friend/collaborator who has played already could send them the questions/answers in advance of their game. The biggest opportunity for cheating is non-proctored daily quizzes like Learned League. Only the best players get proctored and whilst this has filtered out a lot of cheating I have no doubt there is cheating at all rundles.

Cheating, of course, can happen in real life and there have been rumours about people running off to toilets once in possession of the password or having access to questions in advance.

I am aware I sound very cynical but I was once really naive about cheating. I didn’t understand why people were cheating when there was rarely a cash prize (if lucky you get a trophy). I am still sympathetic to the Ingrams desperate attempt to win one million pounds I am slightly less sympathetic to someone who just wants to see a lot of numbers by their name.

I am slightly more understanding of why cheating happens. The nature of quiz/any competitive activity attracts people with low self-esteem or whose self-esteem was fine until they realised they are no longer the cleverest in the room. Great quizzers are admired but they are admired for being nice people. I can appreciate needing a confidence boost when faced with questions that you just cannot answer.

There seems to be no deterrent to cheating. Many cheaters simply leave quiz when caught and those that don’t are kicked out by teammates. One example of cheating is the OQL Friendlies, which are open so anyone can view them. I have been in many a game where someone appears to be scrolling and getting answers, based on their main performance, are completely beyond them. My very vocal approach is that if quizzes aren’t password protected then the scores shouldn’t be published publicly.

I also don’t want to see witch hunts. People do improve, people do have seats and games that suit them and that doesn’t mean they are cheating and the fear of wrongly accusing someone seems to understandably take priority over dealing with suspicious or confirmed cheating. I don’t think cheating is as prevalent or even harming quiz compared to some people but it is making activities less attractive. I doubt I will ever upload a quiz on Wikiquiz again because I assume there are participants cheating, Wikiquiz is a great resource and really got me into writing my own quizzes. With Learned League and KFL I appreciate the questions as a revision tool but I never look at the results.

Organisers can attempt to prevent cheating but they won’t stop it, which leads to an underground movement of private messaging and people being concerned about cheating but not really sure how to report it. Seeing friends and acquaintances accused is unpleasant but there also needs to be acceptance from players-new and old-that cheating will happen and dealing with it will never be easy.

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