Game cheats aren’t as popular or prevalent in the gaming world as they once were. But there was a time when entire magazines and TV shows were dedicated to sharing commands, codes, and hacks that would alter a video game’s play experience in the most extreme ways.
These hacks, called “cheat codes” or simply “cheats,” are used to advance a video game without the effort of building the in-game character’s experience. They can be incredibly sophisticated and involve hardware tinkering to allow players to click or move more quickly than humanly possible. In some cases, these alterations allow gamers to use their skills to earn real money.
Cheating is considered to be a serious breach of the game’s ethos, especially when it affects the enjoyment of other gamers. Regardless of the reason for cheating, games that are seen to be prone to cheating often lose player engagement. Honest players move on to other titles and the games that are impacted in this way are less likely to become profitable for the publisher.
In the early 1980s, savvy gamers used their computer knowledge to create self-made cheats. Using simple POKE commands, gamers could manipulate the 8-bit computing systems of their day to change game statistics like health and ammo. This type of cheat is known as a memory hack, and it often had unintended effects, such as buffing the characters of enemies.
A more modern take on cheating involves third-party software that takes over a video game to perform specific tasks, such as eliminating a boss or unlocking a secret item. These programs are also sometimes referred to as cheat tools and are often designed to be used with multiplayer games.
Although the majority of gamers are not cheaters, a small minority do so in order to gain an unfair advantage over other players. This can be done by using a cheat code that changes an in-game statistic or by using hardware to gain super-human abilities.
Gamers that are caught cheating often face punishments ranging from a warning to permanent ban. Some are even forced to pay a fine or forfeit a portion of the earnings they’ve made in the game. This is a big problem for the industry, as it can deter people from playing games if they’re worried about cheating.
While gaming companies vehemently condemn cheating, they’re careful to focus their legal firepower on the cheat-makers, rather than the players themselves. That’s probably because suing the cheat-makers could prove expensive and rankle gamers as heavy-handed. Nevertheless, there have been some legal victories for video game publishers over cheat-makers, with Destiny-maker Bungie recently winning a $13.5 million settlement against one. More such wins are expected in the future.