To Cheat or Not to Cheat? Practices, Purposes, and Politics of Cheating in Digital Games

Yasmin Kafai, Mia Consalvo, Deborah Fields, Tom Satwicz, Eric Zimmerman

Cheating has always been a prominent but little-discussed part of game culture. Notorious in some situations (like the World of Warcraft virus) and conventional in others (like typing a code into an Xbox), is there any legitimacy to be found in cheating? In the upcoming Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames (MIT Press), Mia Consalvo outlines early practices and current debates about cheating by players and within the game industry. Most games have large fan communities that sprout numerous fan sites, among them cheat sites where players post explanations of how to complete various games, hints for how things work, and even discovered or manufactured shortcuts through games. So numerous are the variations that Salen and Zimmerman (2004) developed a typology of the kinds of cheats found in games, particularly computer and video games. In addition, Gee (2003) and many others see cheat sites as part of the vast network of knowledge that players gather and learn about the games, and many companies actually sponsor official guides that provide hints or outright answers for how to complete a game and forums where players post their own solutions or strategies. The acts of cheating then gain relevance beyond individual players’ illegitimate transgressions and place cheating within the larger gaming culture in which players aim to participate legitimately.

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