Failures of logic

DarkViperAU (“DVAU” or “Matt” herein) is a GTA-V speedrunner. (Twitch, YouTube) For over the last year, he’s been attempting to finish a start-to-finish no-damage run, using a mod to enforce certain requirements: 1 hit point to ensure any damage is fatal, and disabling Trevor’s power which reduces or eliminates the chance of damage from any hit. And he’s publicly streamed his attempts to make it easy to “clip” the stream where needed to examine why he was killed in a particular circumstance.

In May 2021, though, another GTA-V player going by UnNameD posted video of him succeeding at a feat that Matt has been attempting for so long.

Naturally skepticism abounded with plenty of attempts to poke holes in the video that was posted, with responses to those attempts by GTA-V experts also coming about. A lot of the responses, however, also amounted to dismissal without due consideration. A lot of critics were dismissed as merely “DarkViper fanboys” or some analog thereto, basically acting like no legitimate criticism is even possible if you liked or followed DVAU’s attempt.

And there are plenty of people who readily latched onto this run as legitimate purely because they, for some reason, do not like Matt.

And all around there has been a massive failure of logic that I will go into here.

Prior to posting his video segments to YouTube, UnNameD was an unknown in the GTA-V gaming communities. He, in short, “came out of nowhere”.

Matt has repeatedly demonstrated that a no-damage run requires a lot of skill along with some luck. No one really knew what UnNameD’s skill was in GTA-V. So when he posted his no-damage run, skepticism and criticism should not only have been expected, but welcomed.

UnNameD has made an extraordinary claim. And, as Carl Sagan once said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And video capture is also not infallible as evidence. Just look to one of the many cheating scandals in any speedrunning community for evidence on that.

And speaking of cheating, it is not unreasonable to accuse someone in UnNameD’s position – again, relative unknown, seemingly lesser skilled player – of cheating to accomplish such a great feat as a no-damage run in GTA-V. Indeed such accusations should be expected because cheating by lesser-known or unknown players who seem to accomplish a great feat “out of nowhere” is not without precedent.

And even cheating by established and known players of particular games is also not without precedent. The recent controversies involving Trackmania and Minecraft speedrunner Dream show this.

And another on this mark that readily comes to mind is Goose. (YouTube channel here) He is a well-established speedrunner for the N64 games Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. He has cheated (video splicing, if I recall correctly) and publicly admitted to it. But he managed to redeem himself and establish himself on the leaderboards, including setting world records on some stages, by completing legitimate runs and doing whatever was demanded to establish that his world record accomplishments are legitimate.

Matt has shown through his public attempts the likelihood a no-damage run can be accomplished on a random GTA-V playthrough is exceedingly low. It takes practice and planning. So out of the gate, the likelihood that UnNameD’s run is legitimate is extraordinarily low given his apparent lack of history.

Meaning the likelihood UnNameD did cheat to accomplish his no-damage run is not zero. Showing screenshots of his GTA-V folder does not eliminate that likelihood as well since we cannot know if the folder he showed is the folder out of which he actually ran GTA-V for his run. Add to it the fact that filesystem dates and times can be modified quite trivially via Powershell (which is installed by default on all Windows 10 machines), so we can’t know if the screenshots were made before the run, or after the run when the filesystem timestamps had been modified.

And it’s the response to the cheating allegations that has demonstrated the massive failure of logic. Many of UnNameD’s supporters have equated the cheating allegations to “guilty until proven innocent”. That isn’t what’s happening here.

To say it is means we should accept UnNameD’s run as legitimate merely because he claims it to be rather than through his defenses to the contrary, or that his run should be deemed legitimate merely because someone raised a claim of cheating. The burden falls on UnNameD to defend his run against claims that it is not legitimate, answering the criticisms and controversies instead of they or their supporters dismissing it outright. This includes doing what they can to defang any cheating allegations as best as is reasonable.

One can say that no person should make a baseless claim of “cheating”. Baseless claims, though, are not automatically illegitimate. Again, though, cheating by players unknown to the larger gaming communities in which they are participating is not without precedent. And in my perception, based on my exposure to speedrunning and gaming controversies, it is equally likely that UnNameD did cheat as it is that they did not.

The fact UnNameD is an unknown to the GTA-V gaming communities works against them and all-but-guaranteed they’d be accused of cheating.

But why do I say that accusing them of cheating is not “guilty until proven innocent”? Simply because the burden of proof has always been on UnNameD to prove the run is legitimate. Cheating is merely one counter-claim of many that can be levied against the run. Someone who merely says “you cheated” should be dismissed without much thought. But someone who says “here’s why I think you cheated” should have their points addressed and not dismissed.

An allegation of cheating is a claim of illegitimacy against the run. But that allegation of cheating is not the equivalent of “guilty until proven innocent” as many have claimed because the burden of proof has always been on UnNameD to defend the run and prove it to be legitimate.