Competitive Pokémon Is Full Of Cheating According To New Data

A week after the winners were crowned at the 2023 Pokémon World Championship in Japan, a new survey of the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet competitive community appears to show just how rampant “cheating” is in the hit Nintendo Switch game. The data looked at recent teams fielded by pros and found that barely 50 percent of them were legal under the current rules of the game.

“We’ve gathered [more than] 850 recent rental teams and analyzed them with our usual *free hack checks*. A season finale of Chris Brown’s nightmare!” tweeted Kurt, the creator of the unauthorized Pokémon save editor PKHeX, referencing The Pokémon Company’s current director of esports. “Looking back at this year and years prior, we still see a roughly 50/50 split of teams being illegally modified.”

Several competitors were disqualified from this year’s World Championship due to stricter checks for hacked Pokémon, leading to a massive controversy across the fandom over what exactly constitutes cheating and whether The Pokémon Company needs to take steps to make competing more sustainable. Players have to spend hundreds of hours grinding through the games and training new teams whenever strategies change, leading some to simply “generate” their preferred teams using tools like PKHeX instead. They aren’t any stronger than normal Pokémon, but they are massively easier to acquire.

According to Kurt’s data, roughly 17 percent of World Championship teams had hacked Pokémon on them. That may have even included the 2023 champion, Shohei Kimura. Kurt’s analysis found his important grass/poison-type Amoonguss had a modified ATK IV stat of 0. Another top competitor, Tang Shiliang, beat 2016 champion Wolfe Glick in the early rounds. He appeared to be fielding a couple of possibly hacked Pokémon as well. It should be noted that simply having “genned” Pokémon doesn’t mean the owner actually did anything elicit. Players often trade for teams, sometimes offering payment in exchange, and don’t always know if what they’re getting in return is the real deal or slightly modified.

Those modifications can be uncovered using PKHeX, the very same tool used to create them in the first place. “PKHeX has an extremely powerful ‘legality checker’ feature which can identify which encounter a Pokémon originated from, under what conditions it learned moves, and checks other features,” Kurt told Kotaku. It also looks for the “Home Tracker” associated with using the game’s online storage tool, as well as analyzing random number generation patterns in search of anomalies.

How badly these shortcuts rank on the scale of cheating remains a heated debate. For some fans, it ruins the spirit and integrity of the game whose core fantasy revolves around painstakingly raising Pokémon like virtual pets. Others see it as an impediment to more people competing in online play and discovering the joys of high-level Pokémon play. Despite creating PKHeX, Kurt doesn’t consider its use in competitive play blameless.

“Sure it’s not an advantage during the battle (combative), but the time saved can be instead spent on brain training (understanding the meta/as many teams as possible),” he told Kotaku. “This year’s analysis didn’t change my mind about anything, but it makes it more clear the entitlement that some players have. They don’t understand that the future will likely not be as accessible as the cheat-enabled present.”

Kurt thinks it’s unlikely the next Nintendo console will have the same security flaws that made hacking so rampant on the Switch and isn’t hopeful that the company will introduce more official shortcuts for competing. “If players don’t get accessibility changes now, they’ll likely be in for a rude awakening in the future.”


Chess World’s ‘Anal Bead’ Cheating Saga Comes To An End

It felt like this day might never come, but former world champion Magnus Carlsen and grandmaster Hans Niemann have finally put the cheating scandal that rocked the chess world last year, including meme-filled speculation about anal beads, to bed. and Carlsen reached a settlement with Niemann, who had sued them and Twitch streamer Hikaru Nakamura for $100 million over what he alleged was a “civil conspiracy” to defame him. “We are pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with Hans Niemann to put our differences behind us and move forward together without further litigation,” wrote in an update on August 28. As a result, Niemann will once again be allowed to compete on the online chess platform, and Carlsen has agreed to play him in the future should they meet in a tournament.

“I acknowledge and understand’s report, including its statement that there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup,” Carlsen said in a statement. “I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together.”

It was the former world champion’s remarks that initially set the largest cheating scandal in the modern era of the game in motion. After losing to Niemann in a shocking upset during the early stages of the August 2022 Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen resigned from the tournament completely, and tweeted out a Jose Mourinho meme implying Niemann had cheated.

The accusations took chess message boards and Twitch communities by storm, with viewers in the Chessbrah Twitch chat joking that maybe Niemann had used anal beads to communicate with someone sending him the best moves from the outside using an AI chess engine. Anal beads became a running joke, not because there was any evidence they were ever used, but precisely because there was never any evidence that Niemann ever actually cheated, let alone how he would have managed to, given the Sinquefield Cup’s strict security. It even became the basis for an entire episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

It was all fun and games until Carlsen doubled-down on his allegations in September and released a 72-page report in October accusing Niemann of cheating in several matches played on the website. Niemann fired back with a $100 million lawsuit accusing Carlsen of leveraging his “media empire” and partnerships with to try and get Niemann banned from tournaments and shunned from the professional chess world.

A federal judge tossed out Niemann’s lawsuit in June, but he tried to appeal the decision and now the two sides have settled. While said it stands by its previous report, it also admits that there is no “determinative evidence” that Niemann ever cheated in any in-person games.

“I am pleased that my lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen and has been resolved in a mutually acceptable manner, and that I am returning to,” Niemann said in a statement. “I look forward to competing against Magnus in chess rather than in court.”

Update 8/30/2023 10:36 a.m. ET: Changed “blacklisted” to “banned” in the sixth paragraph.


Destiny 2 Offers Players $45 Credit Over Mistaken Cheating Bans

A Destiny 2 Guardian rejoins the fight from their space ship cockpit.

Image: Bungie

Destiny 2 has been cracking down on cheating in recent years, and the sci-fi shooter is now riddled with players who claim they were banned by mistake. However, it seems at least some of them may have been telling the truth: Bungie recently contacted a few players to apologize for banning them by mistake, offering them roughly $45 in premium currency to make up for the error.

As reported by The Verge’s Tom Warren, a recent email from the studio stated that a “small number” of players had their accounts “inadvertantly flagged as having tampered with game client functionality.” The email continued, “While the overwhelming majority of these detections are accurate, we discovered that in extremely rare cases this detection may be triggered through no fault of the player.”

Bungie explained that a recent audit of its cheating detection processes revealed the false positives, and it’s taken action to fix the issue. It’s unclear for how long any of the players wrongly banned for cheating were excluded from the game, but the studio is offering them 5,000 Silver to spend on emotes and ornaments in the Eververse microtransaction shop. The premium in-game currency bundles can also be spent on battle passes for upcoming seasons.

Destiny 2 has been in a constant tug-of-war with cheaters, especially in its top-tier competetive modes like Trials of Osiris, a weekly competition where players compete for some of the best loot in the game. Its recent crackdowns, which have been cheered by the community as a way to sure up the integrity of the game’s struggling PvP modes, have resulted in a number of publicized ban waves. Bungie even got a player legally banned from ever playing Destiny 2 again through a court order last month.

Some of those caught up in the cheating ban waves have been less impressed by Bungie’s efforts. The game’s subreddit, forum, and social media include frequent posts by people claiming they were wrongfully banned and criticizing the studio for the lack of transparency around its appeals process. It’s unclear if the recent “small number” of mistakes will alter the way Bungie deals with suspected cheaters. The studio did not immediately respond to a reqeust for comment.

Update 10/11/2023 2:00 p.m. ET: A spokesperson for Bungie provided Kotaku with the following statement:

“We recently identified and resolved an issue that resulted in a small number of accounts being inadvertently flagged during a recent ban wave. This issue was isolated to this specific ban wave, and we have made changes to our review process to ensure this issue is not repeated. Impacted players have been notified, accounts restored, and make-goods provided.”


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