Monday, April 23, 2007

What Type of Cheater Are You?

What Type of Game Cheater Are You?
Mia Consalvo, a game academic at Ohio State University, interviewed dozens of players about their attitudes -- which she'll publish in the book, Cheating, this summer -- and found that we cluster into a couple of loose groups, each with a different ethical vision.

A small hardcore group are die-hard purists, like my friend. They don't use any cheats or guides, because they consider it "cheating yourself" of the subtle pleasure of getting stuck in a game -- then suddenly spying the way out.

The next group is the walkthrough folks, like me. We regard guides as a form of travel literature; I'd never have located all the cool, secret areas in Final Fantasy XII without a FAQ. (In contrast, the hardcore crowd seems to relish the idea that they'll miss out on stuff, because it's part of the mystery of game.) But I almost never use cheats or manipulations of code to grant myself "unearned" power. I like the idea that if I'm born into this virtual world, I'll abide by the fictions that govern its reality.

Then there's the final group of gamers -- the "by any means necessary" crowd, as it were. Like the ancient gnostics, or like Morpheus in The Matrix, they know the world around them is just code -- and the fun is not in obeying it but mucking with it. Single-player worlds are toys, to be hacked with any available Easter eggs, exploits or hardware mods; you can't have the truly l33t experiences if you're not tricked out with sick amounts of weaponry and skillz.

From this view, cheating a single-player game isn't possible because, as one interviewee told Consalvo, "you can't cheat a Gamecube -- you can only cheat another player." If part of the goal in a narrative game is to finish the story, what's wrong with using any tool at hand to do so?
For me, it depends on the game and what it is about the game that I enjoy most. If I enjoy mucking about and discovering things on my own, I won't consult a guide. If I want to get onto the next bit and don't particularly enjoy this bit, I will consult a guide. If I enjoy a particular aspect of the game and its possible to enhance that with a hack, then I might use the hack.

There you go.