Cheating is gaming’s natural bedfellow. The Konami code (popularized in the Nintendo classic Contra) is intrinsically ingrained into American culture, yet its popularity understates the appeal of cheating as a recognizable part of the gaming industry. Implemented properly, cheating creates replayability and enjoyment in familiar territory. At their best, cheat codes lead to further entertainment and communal experiences warmly remembered.
Yet for some, cheating takes a rather different form. In a competitive gaming environment, cheating has become an avenue to success, an addiction that directly sedates the need to control and succeed against other players. Last week, PC Gamer published an article discussing how professional cheaters enable other gamers to fulfill their online desires. That is, if those gamers can pay for it.
For a nominal fee, the hackers create accounts to grant their customers the ultimate power-trip. And it works supremely well: “For the first time, I wasn’t just another player, but a kind of god,” says one player. There are no long-term, tangible benefits for their services, but one hacker named Zero mentions his company earns over a million dollars each year simply by enabling others to cheat. He acknowledges later that “what he does isn’t good for games, but . . . he’ll provide supply where there’s demand.” His words bluntly disregard what should be acceptable protocol within online gaming. Instead of equal footing, we’re reminded that cheaters desire those services because the gamers believe they’re necessary.
Still, whether by similarly skilled players, simplistic gameplay, or extensive security, there are measures to discourage hackers. The belief among developers is that a perfectly balanced competitive arena will render cheating meaningless. Even so, one developer openly labels many online games “the Wild West . . . [i]t’s more about managing the risk and hacks without inconveniencing your legitimate players.” Within his words, we’re faced with the reality that these gamers choose to continue playing rather than avoiding the need to cheat altogether.
What motivates them to continue playing? Derived self-worth. Viewed through the lens of a recent study on videogame aggression, we’re reminded that cheating unearths an intrinsically flawed aspect of our humanity: a sinful nature desiring control regardless of the cost. Essentially, cheating grants the easiest path to stifling the overwhelming realization that some element – whether other players or a design choice – has rendered us powerless.
Obviously, this sharply contrasts to how we should approach our entertainment. Shunning the desire to impose our will, our faith calls us to self-control over our physical and digital selves. Ultimately, we’re implored to remember that when we break our games, we also break ourselves.