Have you ever joined a Fortnite match only to feel like your opponent’s firing shots a little too perfectly? Hey, maybe you even played a match against an improbably good sharpshooter who never missed. Maybe they are that skilled, but there’s also a slight chance they’re using aimbot, a cheat, to get that edge.
Increasingly, gamers are calling out these so-called cheaters, alleging that using an aimbot in a tournament is foul play. Some high-profile gaming events have even gone so far as to take legal action against gamers using aimbots in competition. And maybe that’s not so surprising given just how much money some of these esports champs win.
Here, we’ll discuss what aimbot is, why it’s so contested, what popular games people use aimbot in, and the legal action that’s been taken against esports cheaters.
What Is Aimbot?
An aimbot is a computer program that helps a player aim more accurately in a video game. Often, that game is a shooter, be it third-person or first-person (FPS). The aimbot calculates the trajectory of the player’s shots and automatically aims their gun at the target, making it much easier to hit said opponent.
Gamers use this technology to gain a competitive edge — not just in casual matches with friends or at home online, but in tournaments with cash prizes, too. Some aimbots boast other features as well; auto-fire, for example, will fire a player’s gun automatically, so long as they’re aiming at an enemy. And… that kind of takes a lot of the skill — if not all of the skill — out of the game.
Aimbots frequently show up in matches of popular games like Fortnite. While most players consider them cheating, aimbots are, nonetheless, popular among gamers who play shooters.
Why Is Aimbot So Contested?
Gamers are increasingly calling out aimbots in both casual and competitive gaming. In some cases, the use of aimbots during high-profile tournaments has resulted in legal action. So, why are aimbots that controversial?
As we’ve discussed, using an aimbot gives you more than a competitive edge — it gives you a full-fledged advantage, making the playing field uneven, even if you’re competing against a great non-aimbot-using player.
Usually, players need to move a cursor with their mouse or controller stick to take aim at opponents; a direct hit, or the damage a hit does, depends on your accuracy. When you use an aimbot, the program does all the aiming for you. Since the program does some quick math to target opponents, each shot you fire will always land.
If you suspect someone is using an aimbot, there’s always a chance that they’re just really good. The problem comes when aimbot usage is overwhelmingly apparent, like when a player is on the other end of the map, but fires into the sky with a shot that, somehow, instantly hits you. Another way to spot an aimbot user? If a player rapidly makes 180-degree turns too frequently, only to drop opponents effortlessly.
The majority of gamers log hours and hours a week competing against others online. If you start running into tons of aimbot users, playing a game you love can feel pretty pointless. After all, there’s no fun in playing against a program that’s designed this way.
Popular Games People Use Aimbots In
Since aimbots increase players’ accuracy, they’re often used in online FPS, battle royale and third-person shooter games. So, which popular titles suffer the most from aimbot users?
Epic Games’ Fortnite is the most popular free-to-play battle royale game — and esport — that people use aimbots in. There are rampant claims that many players use aimbots to progress through the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS), the official premier open tournament in which players compete for not only the title of Fortnite champion in their region, but a monetary prize too. As a result, Epic Games actively bans accounts that use aimbots.
One high-profile example? Kalvin “KEZ” Dam, a professional gamer and FNCS champion, was banned for using a soft aimbot in the Frosty Frenzy tournament. Additionally, popular content creator Jarvis Kaye also got a lifetime ban from Fortnite after streaming a video showing him using an aimbot in a custom match. He claimed to have never used an aimbot in a tournament, but, regardless, Epic Games maintained its zero-tolerance policy for cheating.
Call of Duty: Warzone
Part of Activision’s best-selling franchise, Call of Duty: Warzone is an FPS battle royale game that’s pretty known for having tournaments with large cash prizes. As a result, the game has seen its fair share of players using an aimbot to cheat. During the Twitch Rivals Call of Duty: Warzone Showdown EU tournament, viewers called out streamer DavskaR for using an aimbot.
A $75,000 prize pool was at stake here, so fans were furious when video clips showing DavskaR’s impossibly perfect aim surfaced online. In a video posted to Twitter, DavskaR tracked players’ locations through solid objects and took out an entire squad with extremely precise headshots. While he was allowed to keep competing in the tournament, this all led to outrage on Twitch. Eventually, DavskaR was banned from Twitch and removed from the tournament.
After this high-profile scandal, more instances of aimbot use in Call of Duty: Warzone, leading Activision to implement the Ricochet anti-cheat software to target cheaters instantaneously.
What Legal Action Has Been Taken Against Cheaters in Esports Leagues?
As of 2022, there are no federal laws against using aimbots in esports. Still, some high-profile gaming events take legal action against cheating players, which often results in lifetime bans from their accounts and future tournaments relating to the game they cheated in.
The bans are often applied case-by-case and can either be temporary (up to 30 days) or permanent. For instance, Epic Games issues permanent bans to players who are caught cheating in Fortnite. Consequently, countless players and several high-profile gamers have been banned from Fortnite for using third-party software hacks.
While it can be hard to ban every player who’s using aimbots, anti-cheat software does help gaming companies detect aimbot users. If you suspect another player of cheating, most gaming platforms provide ways to report the user. Call of Duty: Warzone, for instance, provides a quick way to report suspicious players within the game itself. As of February 2, 2021, Activision claims to have banned 60,000 accounts in a day for the use of cheating software, adding up to more than 300,000 bans worldwide.
All of these efforts reduce cheating in online matches – both ones you might play in on a Friday night as well as those tied to tournaments and esports prize money. So, will there be a more streamlined way to regulate the use of aimbots during esports in the near future? It’s unclear as of now. But here’s hoping the industry tackles the problem sooner rather than later.