Study says social game cheaters more likely to cheat in real life

Nearly half of all people who cheat in social games are less than honorable in real life, suggests a study out of PopCap Games. According to a survey of 1201 US and UK adult gamers, 48% of responders who admitted to cheating in-game also admitted to lying, cheating, or stealing in other aspects of their lives. That is compared to the paltry 14% of non-cheaters who also admitted to cutting a few corners in the real world.

“It’s not surprising that online cheating parallels real-world cheating, even if people are just experimenting with the possibilities,” reasoned Dr. Mia Consalvo of Concordia University. “With more of our daily systems and processes moving online, and being divorced from human contact (downloading music, filing taxes online) the risks either appear to be lesser, or they don't feel like crimes.”

Offering a few specifics, the report indicated 53% of social game cheaters said they had cheated on tests at school, over 43% revealed they'd stolen condiments from restaurants, and nearly half admitted to stepping out on a committed relationship.

Interestingly enough, the UK study participants were shown to be more dishonest than their US counterparts. According to the report, of the estimated 118 million people who play social games on a regular basis in the two countries, 11% were cheaters from the UK, while 7% came from the US. Moreover, it was deduced that UK cheaters were two times more likely to cheat on their taxes than US ne'er-do-wells. Tsk tsk.

Overall, PopCap's study should be taken with a gigantic, asteroid-sized grain of salt. After all, 1201 is an extremely small representation of the entire gaming demographic, and the study's fine print indicates US participants outnumbered the UK lab rats by 801 to 400—which is bound to skew the numbers just a little. If anything, however, the report raises some interesting questions as to the psyche of videogame cheaters. What do you make of the results?

Matt Bradford wrote news and features here at GamesRadar+ until 2016. Since then he's gone on to work with the Guinness World Records, acting as writer and researcher for the annual Gamer's Edition series of books, and has worked as an editor, technical writer, and voice actor. Matt is now a freelance journalist and editor, generating copy across a multitude of industries.