Soon after I explained how to exit FreeCell without losing the game, someone soft-linked the words "cheat" and "cheater" to that node.

To me, that does not make any sense: It is simply not possible to cheat at FreeCell, or any Solitaire-style game, except under very specific cirmustances, which, however, do not apply when playing the game by yourself at the computer.

My dictionary contains several definitions of the word cheat, the one pertinent to cheating at games is to violate rules dishonestly (as at cards or on an examination).

First, let us consider the dishonesty clause. It implies that in order to cheat at a game you must deceive the other players. But in FreeCell, Solitaire, and similar games, there are no other players. How can you cheat when there is no one to cheat on?

But there is another, and more profound, reason why it is impossible to cheat at Solitaire and friends. Namely, dishonesty aside, you cannot break the rules of a game you are playing by yourself.

Where do the rules of a game come from? I mean any game, not just a card game. Do they come from nature?

No, not from nature, though, strictly speaking, they are limited by the laws of nature. It would certainly be pointless to try to play a game which would require you to jump up and grab the Moon with your right hand: The law of gravity does not let you jump up far enough, plus the size of the Moon would prevent you from grabbing it with your right hand even if you could jump up far enough. Not to mention you could not function in the vacuum.

So, the laws of nature, or, more precisely, system laws, do impose some limitation on the rules of a game. Yet, they do not dictate the rules. For example, the rules of boxing disallow a strike below the waste, even though such a strike would not violate the laws of nature.

Where, then, do the rules of a game come from? Let me propose a simple lemma which applies universally to the rules of any game:

The rules of any game are decided by the consensus of all involved.

This consensus is either explicit or implicit.

Suppose a group of people gets together to play a game of volleyball. They want to play in a more relaxed way than usual. So someone suggests that each side be permitted to touch the ball five times instead of the custommary three. Everyone says, yes, good idea! That is an example of an explicit consensus.

More typically, the consensus is implicit. For example, the rules of a gymnastic competition at the Olympic Games are decided by an international committee, even if none of its members is an actual player (they may be former players, but do not play at the Olympic Games for which they are making a decision). By participating in the Olympics each gymnast implictly agrees on the rules of the game.

The explicit consensus is typically more flexible than the implicit one. It is hard to imagine that the various volleyball teams participating at Olympic Games would decide to allow the ball to be touched five times before it must go to the other team. Yet, a small, informal, group of players may decide on such a modification of the rules even in the middle of the game. And, as long as they all agree, it is quite acceptable for them to change the rules at any time.

In the case of FreeCell, Solitaire, and similar games, there is only one player. This one player represents "all involved." That is to say, whatever this player decides, whenever this player decides it, automatically equals the consensus of all involved. It is the player, and the player alone, who defines and redefines the rules of the game, whether before the game, any time during the game, or even retrospectively after the game.

Thus, whatever the solitary player does is always in accordance with the rules of the game. Hence, it is impossible to cheat at Solitaire, FreeCell, and similar games.

N.B. I qualified all this in the second paragraph with "except under very specific cirmustances." It is certainly possible to play Solitaire in a non-solitary way, e.g., at a casino. Naturally, under that very specific circumstance an individual player is not free to change the rules of the game without the consensus of the rest of the involved (the casino would qualify as involved since they participate in the game with their money).

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