Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video Game Cheaters

In the early years of PC Games, it usually took just a day or two after the release of a new game for cheats, exploits and walk-throughs to start showing up on the message boards.  There were whole BBS systems and USNet groups dedicated to them (and eventually websites).

I used to think "wow, these guys are amazingly fast at figuring these out." 

That's not what happened though.  The game designers themselves were building the cheats and exploits into the game and releasing them to the message systems themselves.

The idea was this: Even though they haven't accomplished anything tangible, people get a pleasurable sense of accomplishment out of beating a video game.  They get frustrated easily though and since the stakes are fairly low, they're very willing to abandon the game if they get stuck.

To make sure nobody gets stuck, the developers put out the cheats, exploits and walk-throughs to get them through the rough spots.

It was a vital step to the success of a game and (pretty much) everybody used them and since the game was just between you and your computer, nobody considered video game cheating a matter of honor, and the seeking out and collecting of cheats and exploits became a principal part of video game culture.

A problem developed though with the introduction of networked games like Doom.  Suddenly it wasn't you vs. your computer any more, it was you vs other real people who might get pissed if they found out you played the game in god mode or some other cheat.

In the beginning, it was something of a gentleman's agreement not to cheat in networked game play.  You can imagine how that went.  Pretty soon, the designers who put cheats and exploits into games were figuring out ways to engineer them back out of the game in network mode.

The server operators also developed ways to keep people out of the game who were known cheaters and the ban hammer was born.

Players were often fairly good coders themselves though, so they soon found ways to put the cheats and exploits back into the game (along with a few new ones) and engineer themselves a way around the ban hammer.

Users brought this culture of cheating and counter cheating and counter-counter cheating with them when they started using social applications with game like qualities like The Palace and SecondLife.

You would think, in a social application, there wasn't really any opportunity to cheat, but people found ways.

What we call CopyBot was called Avatar Stealing in The Palace, which always amused me since the Palace didn't have an economic system and all avatars were free anyway.

SecondLife does have an economic system though, so Linden Labs spent huge chunks of time and effort chasing down and eliminating cheats related to it.

The most cheats though came in the form of ways to annoy other users.  At first glance, you might wonder why anybody would want to do that, but in a live social application, intentionally annoying other people has vast implications on the social interactions, so "griefing" these became a major activity.

People who come from a video game background recognize it immediately.  It's the people who came to SecondLife without passing through that part of computer culture who take it as a threat.

Nobody intentionally developed this culture of cheating.  It came about for fairly logical and reasonable reasons.  It's moving it from the circumstance of one man vs his machine to man vs man where we got into trouble, and it's going to take a long time to work out a reasonable and reliable way of dealing with it.

When you see spinning cubes of goatse death flying past your sim, just remember it's part of computer history and video game culture and try not to get upset.

1 comment:

  1. So far I've found that hard to do (ignore)...that's why I ended up with Benares


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