Games cheats allow gamers to bypass the normal game rules and play experience, enabling them to obtain characters, items, abilities or skills that would otherwise be impossible or very difficult to achieve. They are often illegal and can be very time consuming to create. While many modern video games use anti-cheat features that detect and prevent cheating, the availability of game hacks and other unauthorized modification tools is still common. According to an Irdeto gaming survey, 33% of players admit that other gamers’ cheating negatively impacted their multiplayer gaming experiences; 18% state that it happens frequently and 8% claim it occurs constantly.
Cheating in video games is a serious problem for the gaming industry, as it destroys the integrity of the experience and discourages honest players from purchasing or playing these games. The ubiquity of cheating in video games is a result of the accessibility and popularity of cheating tools, which are created by hackers and distributed online, sold through stores, and packaged as hardware devices such as GameSharks or mod chips. Video game cheating is a cultural phenomenon and, as Consalvo points out, it is a form of entertainment that is “normalized” by the culture of gaming itself.
The majority of game hacks and cheats involve modifying the software that runs the video game, despite EULAs which forbid modification. Some of these modifications, such as a lag switch or ESP (electronic sensing protocol), modify on-screen visuals and give the cheater an advantage over opponents. Others, such as code injection or system/driver modification, are more difficult to detect by the game or its anti-cheat software.
A number of anti-cheat mechanisms are used to combat games cheating, including pattern detection, sandboxing, and supervision. Pattern detection focuses on detecting specific patterns of gameplay that indicate the use of a cheat. This method is a non-intrusive, privacy preserving way to monitor the behavior of game users and can be applied to all end-user systems. Sandboxing allows the underlying gaming process to run in a sandbox, isolated from other processes and programs. This provides more control for the game developer and is less prone to privacy violations than anti-cheat methods that require data to be uploaded to remote back-end systems.
Most video games feature a wide range of consequences for those who violate the rules of the game, such as suspensions, temporary bans or demotions. Suspensions are generally reserved for more severe cases, such as benefiting from game glitches or cheating. The suspension period may vary from a few days to as long as a lifetime ban depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the violation. In addition to these penalties, some games offer in-game rewards for not violating the rules, such as a free character or item. These incentives can be attractive to gamers, who may want to minimize the risk of being caught for using a cheat.