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Cheating and Hacking in Video Games

This entry was created by a student in Stanford's Rhetoric of Gaming class. For more about the class and the assignment, click here.

Published by Feross Aboukhadijeh.

For my research, I will be investigating the phenomenon of cheating in video games.

0262033658-f30.jpgAlmost every type of game—online and offline, single player and multiplayer—has cheaters. However, not all cheaters are the same. It’s impossible to fit all cheaters—or gamers, for that matter—into a single stereotype or definition. The variety and differences among gamers in today’s society is simply too great to allow such a blanket categorization. Mia Consalvo, author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames (pictured at right), agrees. She argues that identifying cheaters as having a unique subculture does not “adequately explain the broader world of gamers and game players that currently exists.”

Everyone cheats for different reasons. Some players cheat to make games easier during solo play. Cheat codes that generate extra lives, allow players to skip levels, or grant God mode (invulnerability) are common examples of harmless cheats that players use to make the game easier. Cheat codes are typically harmless and are often programmed into the game by the developers as “Easter eggs” for dedicated players to discover. Other players cheat to ruin the game experience for other players. This typically occurs online in the form of aimbots (software that assists the player in aiming), twinking (passing on powerful items to players who would not typically have such items), and the illicit sale of in-game currency. Other players cheat for the technical challenge of “hacking” the game and defeating the anti-cheating mechanisms built into the game.

Part of my job as researcher will be to examine these differing reasons for cheating to discover how each distinct type (and there are any more than the ones I touched on here) affects the game experience for other players and even the cheater himself.

Another interesting argument that Consalvo advances in the opening pages of her book is the notion that successful gameplay is dependent on rules. If these predetermined game rules are broken, she argues, then “the whole play world collapses. The game is over.” I feel that this definition of games is too shallow and fails to take into account the recent trend towards open-ended, sandbox, and emergent gameplay—games largely without rules or objectives. Games like Electroplankton, SimCity, and Little Big Planet are examples of emergent games that stretch the traditional definition of “videogames” by proving players with gameplay free of rules, missions, or clearly defined goals. Are these not games? Similarly, what if a gamer behaves in a way that the developer does not anticipate? Is this “cheating” because the gamer is breaking the implied “rules” of the game?

SimCity3000Deutschlandpic2.jpg
Simcity was one of the first sandbox games.

Her argument also has implications for “hacking” as a form of gaming. Hacking has no well-defined rules or goals—although it usually involves obtaining items of value or increasing one’s in-game rank—the methods by which to accomplish these goals are up to the hacker to decide. I argue that this can be seen a unique form of metagaming. Contrary to Consalvo’s argument, the game actually begins for a hacker the moment they start to cheat and break the rules.

From my cursory examination of Consalvo’s research in Cheating thus far, I have gained great insight into the wide variety of experiences of players of videogames. I have also seen interesting arguments about what makes a videogame a game. Indeed, the definition of this term is still up for debate. I hope that my research will help to shed some light on this frequently debated topic.

Image sources:
Book cover is © MIT Press, found at their website.
SimCity screenshot is © Electronic Arts Inc., found through Google Image Search.
I believe in good faith that my usage of the above copyrighted images, which are low-resolution, and illustrate the subject of my article, and are used for a scholastic pursuit, qualifies as fair use in the United States.

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Comments

i really like this topic and the direction that you are taking it. Your source works perfectly with your topic, but I am wondering if it works too well. What I mean by that is you might have to be careful that you are not basing your argument too much off of hers. I think you are heading in the right direction at this point though. You do a good job of bringing up other issues that are within your topic using your sources argument, such as whether or not games like Sim City can be considered games and the whole issue of breaking the implied rules being a form of cheating.

More about your blog entry soon -- but thanks for your note about copyright and fair use and your conscientious citing of your image sources :)

Here is another book that you might want to look at:
Exploiting online games : cheating massively distributed systems
http://searchworks.stanford.edu/vufind/Record/6852353

You have such a great start on this topic -- and I'm glad that Chris is recommending an additional source here because I think Consalvo has a very powerful voice on this subject and it's good for you to consider the entire conversation.

What really strikes me, though, is the way that you complicate Consalvo's argument to get at the definition of games themselves. Also, what do you make of the assertion that even print gamer's manuals are a form of "cheating"? This is a great topic!

I think that this is a very interesting topic and that you are off to a really good start with your research. From what you have in your blog post, it looks like you are doing a good job of analyzing your source as well as questioning it. I think that the mentality of the cheater or the reasons why cheaters cheat is a very interesting topic and I would like to learn more about it.

You may have missed this that some guys are not good enough to play online without cheating. As a former no2 in the world on cases ladder back in the day 1997 we had many guys who thought they were good players but were crap and they used to shout cheat cheat when they lost but they were not used to playing against real people. Now days things have changed with mods and patches and hacking codes it ruins games just for instance take Far Cry2 ruined by guys with every type of hack you can imagine from invis to untold ammo aimbots you covered these guys are just crap players trying to keep up they even pay real money for hacks.
You will never change this its human behaviour I guess shame though

This is a very interesting topic that has never crossed my mind before. I knew that cheat codes existed but i wasn't fully aware of why did they exist, nor the different types of cheating techniques i.e. why do people cheat? I remember i used to play GTA Vice City a couple of years ago and i used to know all the cheats in the game for e.g. i used to go with my car on the water which was really cool :)

This is a very interesting topic that has never crossed my mind before. I knew that cheat codes existed but i wasn't fully aware of why did they exist, nor the different types of cheating techniques i.e. why do people cheat? I remember i used to play GTA Vice City a couple of years ago and i used to know all the cheats in the game for e.g. i used to go with my car on the water which was really cool :)

I always use cheat playstation game. Most of cheat Game I get from Cheat site provider

When I used to play with the PS2 especially Vice City like Galal, I always used cheats. It makes the game interesting, and by the way if I'm playing alone, I'm not harming anybody; some people say that you are ruining the fun, absolutely not; when I get cheats and have more previlages that's more fun for me. It depends upon each one, unless you are playing more than one player or an online one, that's where cheats are unacceptable, especially because some online games involve paying real money.

I used to play Runescape, a game online with my brothers. I have to admit, the amount of cheats I used were countless. Sometimes to get weapons and sometimes to exceed to the next level. I always cheated to beat my brothers, who are insane about video games and have used every cheat possible in every single game possible. Cheating and hacking in video games was simply to gain more that otherwise wasn’t possible. Upon simply typing “cheats” in Google, 55,800,000 results popped up.
Other players cheat to ruin the game experience for other players? Really, that sounds pretty cynical. Maybe they’re just trying to prove they’re best at the game? Maybe they’re simply trying to win the game. Plus, hacking is exciting! Being able to defeat a program is an ego-boost.
It’s a fascinating issue, maybe if you interview cheaters and ask them their motives, you’ll be able to get first hand reasons for hacking and cheating.
Cheers and good luck,
Winnie

This is a very interesting topic. I played very few games but i saw my younger brother play games. I knew that cheat codes existed but i wasn't fully aware of why did they exist, nor the different types of cheating techniques. I saw him to play GTA Vice City some monthes ago and i used to know all the cheats in the game for.

So they bring out punk buster to catch the crooks and do it work nada just messes the game up for normal players.

Somebody needs to find a program to catch hackers

So they bring out punk buster to catch the crooks and do it work nada just messes the game up for normal players.

Somebody needs to find a program to catch hackers

So they bring out punk buster to catch the crooks and do it work nada just messes the game up for normal players.

Somebody needs to find a program to catch hackers

I play loads of golf games and never camme across any cheats.

Lite it would stick out a guy keep getting hole in 1s :-)

when i was younger, i had a device that plugged into the side of my Amiga 500 and let me directly alter hex values in games. it was the only way i could ever get anywhere!

Very good article, very usefull!!

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I used to be an avid gamer, and although some people call it cheating others think of it as loopholes, like in our tax laws. If a game is programmed to do one thing and I change (re-write) the program, now that is cheating. If I just use a program as the programmer designed it, then it is not cheat.

Its fun to play games but sometimes you need those cheats. I always found those cheat into forum. (Example: if you are looking phone help with cell phone, then you can always google on Cell Phone Forum etc)

I am a gamer and I do cheat sometimes. I must admit that when I do it takes bit of fun out of it, but when game becomes so hard that it is a chor to play it, than cheating codes make it into a game again.

Gamer's who are cheating only means they are having difficulty with the game or just they finished the game and they would like to explore new and incredible things. I like very hard thrills so i refer not to cheat.

I do not think that cheating and hacking games are good. Anyway, i respect the opinion of other people about this.

Sometimes if we face harder games, maybe we need some cheat to make it easier to finish. But I don't like much cheat and hacking because it will kill creativity

Good or not, it depend with us. you want to hack or cheat, it's up to you.
All the consequence is yours.
Sometimes I'm cheating if I got stressed, but sometimes I'm not.
It depends with my mood.
Thanks buddy for this information

As a child I remember cheating at the rubik cube but taking it apart and then putting it back together correctly. Afterwards I found there was no satisfaction in showing it off as I had cheated. Nowadays I find the pleasure in gaming comes from persevering and doing things by my own merits

Cheating or hacking in a game when playing on your own is no problem, but iv only played a few on line games and you could tell they were using hacks n cheating. Its put me off of online games now.

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I like to play video games,have a hug collection of video games.your article on game is very unique and very interesting in reading.nick work

Cellulite

well there are cheater in every game i agree with you on that.. however some of the games like GTA and Prince of Persia are the games that people or the players play with complete cheat codes... however the fame of cheating on game can be calculated from the fact that there are sites especially designed for the cheat codes for such games.

Hi Feross,

Do you know that your blog post has the highest number of random but related comments of any post that we've ever had on the CCR blog? Guess it's a good topic!

Thought you might enjoy this (http://imgur.com/RMwAN.png), which I just found on digg.

Christine

Hi Christine,

I hope you're doing well.

Either I have a good topic, or I know how to write a blog post that attracts spammers! The comments seem to be generally on-topic, but the website URLs of the commenters look like spam to me. :-/

Thanks for the link -- gave me a good laugh! Why does the Internet never cease to entertain?

I'm not sure if you heard, but there's a movie in theaters called Gamer. It's about the ultimate AR game. Players actually get to take control of real life human beings and play military games.

http://gamerthemovie.com/

The concept was interesting, but I thought the movie kept trying to shock everyone with gore and violence. You might be interested to check it out. Definitely don't bring Max along - not a movie for kids!

Feross

Yo are correct. Cheating and hacking is really becoming a problem in the online game community.

Its an interesting subject, something that has been going on since the start. I guess in the early days maybe it was rogue programmers that added the cheat options to game, than the software companies realised is was a good idea and started making it a formal process.

Yo are correct. Cheating and hacking is really becoming a problem in the online game community.

Its a shame, but youre right.

I like to play video games,have a hug collection of video games

For sure cheating is a problem. But have ever wondered how some bad things like that actually foster (indirectly) innovations? But fighting those vice, innovators stumble on newer better things. free laptops

Cheating make me finish the game easily

Never tried cheating and hacking video games. I want to play it fair.

Everything is fair in love and war. Winning the game is never less than a war. So, we can use cheats. That's fair enough according to me.
Cellulite

Cheating or using hack codes will spoil the fun in playing a game. I suggest you play the entire game to enjoy its benefits.

Play a full game to enjoy all the features of the game.

I used to cheat in PSX era, but I found it so boring.. I think the challenge is something we seek truly.. I realize it when I played without any purpose, just for fun :) and it's far better than I ever imagined

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I always enjoyed playing video games.Its my favourite time pass .But then also i was not having that much knowledge about cheaters.Thanks for telling this.

Cellulite Treatment

I would like to think that cheaters have no patience. They wanted to see where the video games end without taking the challenges.

Cheating is also a part of game. Your topic is interesting and I would like to know more about it.

cool stuff, I loved that sim city game, my son still plays that.
mike

cheater's would have no satisfaction while playing because there will be no challenges for them because of the cheat codes.Let us play the games normally.This will bring us challenges and improve improve our skills.

This is just an extension of our want it now society.

let us play fair and square.avoid cheating!

Cheating and hacking loses the excitement of the game.

The only cheat code you will ever need: up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right-b-a-b-a-select-start.

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Great post.keep posting us this type of wonderful information.We always look forward towards your post.

Cheating and hacking is bad.Let us play the game fairly.

As an avid gamers of most genres I must admit I have never looked up a walkthrough here or there or indeed added a few cheat codes for invulnerability - but as you say these cheats are only with myself - I dont think I would ever try to cheat a multiplayer game just for the sake of trying to win or look big. For me cheating is a last resort before I get bored with a game cos I am so stuck its just getting on my nerves

Now a days people are making hacking
and cheating as their business.I think strong action should be taken to stop this type of actions.

It was nice going through it. keep it up the good work.
–thanks–

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Cheating and hacking video games I never tried that. Avoid cheating.

Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

I don't know why anyone would want to cheat playing a game? But again I can see why at times. I watched this young man play war games online along with others. After a while he got upset because he figured his team player failed and as a result he was killed by the enemy. The more he played the more frustrated he got. Now I think if he had a way out from being killed he would probably take it. Maybe he would even cheat to stay alive? I suppose in real life, in real warfare you would almost do anything to survive. I don't think you can cheat in real war. That wouldn't be the correct word to use. But playing games is only a game, it is not real life. The cost is little so why would you even want to cheat, that gets me? But people take themselves to seriously at times and cheating is away of elevating their ego. Losing is a downer to their ego. So they cheat to win to feel good, at least in their minds eye wouldn't you think. No, why not just chalk it up as a loss and try to improve your game rather than taking the easy way out.

I don't understand why you would cheat? It's not like there is a prize for winning. Play fair.

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This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

i love sims

Your research sounds interesting. I really can't stand it when people cheat in video games, but I figure its prevalent. I look forward to seeing what you find.

-Henrock
Seattle Cheap Flights

Cheating is stupid

Cheating sucks

ha ha i have this game sim city,in fact i just turned it off and found this site!! how cool.

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Well, now a days online communities are getting worst due to cheating and hacking. There should be productive measures have to taken to stop these stuff.


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I am also a crazy gamer and love to play games all the times with the cheat codes.Thanks for sharing the info.

I have been playing computer games since last 7 years or so and have always loved to use cheat codes and hacks in every possible stages of the game.

Thanks for sharing this handy piece of information with us mainly focusing the need of the gamers.Hope to see more like this one.

It's for sure a great piece of article I must admit.It has really talked about some great points about the use of the cheating and hacking codes in the games and how to use them properly.

google "game cheats"!
or use yahoo

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