About a year ago, I prepared a presentation on the topic of Cheats for the NYU Game Theory Seminar Series. It struck me that colloquially, cheats or codes, as we sometimes call them, are commonly accepted by players as part of the game. Look up any game and the word 'cheats' on Google and there are sure to be a number of websites and videos on the topic. There are even magazines solely devoted to game cheats. What does it mean to cheat in a game? How does that affect the ludic contract?
For certain, a lot of it is tied to marketing. What used to be a shortcut is now collapsed into a code that gives you an item for buying a certain product. You may get an in-game item that helps you or a way to skip through the roadblocks to get to an unlimited mode of play.
When I was working on Siege of Avalon, a single-player RPG, the designers did not care if the player chose to be unheroic and slay everyone in the castle instead of the orcs outside. Clearly, that was unintended behavior, especially since every NPC you met hailed you as the mighty hero of the homeland. We were also aware that players could jigger the numbers so that they were so powerful, so stealthy, so charismatic, etc that they could sneak up to mobs and slay them without any sort of effort but pressing the Attack button. This was a single-player game, so such behavior did not affect anyone but the player.
In a multiplayer game, it certainly becomes more complicated and even more so when there are real money transactions for in-game currency. There was a recent article about cheating on a Zynga game, so not even social games are exempt from this kind of behavior. But even when there is no real money involved, just prestige and competition, players can have strong feelings about cheating. In an article from last year, a player accused of cheating at Counterstrike was knifed through the head. Clearly, there are levels of cheating that are considered acceptable by players and levels of cheating that are unacceptable.
So what are your thoughts?
- How does this affect the ludic contract?
- What is it about game culture that promotes the use of cheats?
- How does the use of cheats affect the game?
- What should be done about cheats?