Game cheats allow video gamers to circumvent normal gameplay to make the game easier. They can be activated by the video game itself or through third-party software and hardware. They may exploit bug features to achieve an advantage, or they can be developed through a combination of techniques such as modifying the game’s code or using hacking tools. They can be used in the same way as malware to escalate privileges, but are generally less invasive than a traditional malicious program because they don’t require physical access to a device.
The use of games cheats has become a serious problem for the gaming industry. Many video game publishers have banned tens and hundreds of thousands of players from their multiplayer games, accusing them of breaking rules and ruining the gaming experience for honest competitors. The issue isn’t just in professional eSports leagues and ranked matches with prizes at stake, but also on public servers against random strangers playing the same game. Publishers are working hard to address the issue by utilising third-party anti-cheat systems and creating patches that block cheat programs and remove cheated players from matches. But when one cheat app is blocked another is created and distributed, so cheaters are able to find ways around these efforts.
A key factor in why people choose to cheat is a desire for success or a higher rank within the gaming subculture. This is akin to the idea of social capital as defined by Pierre Bourdieu, where status objects such as money or celebrity are used to achieve the desired status in society. In a similar vein, gaming is an exclusive club where achieving the best ranking or winning the most trophies is highly sought after. As a result, gaming is considered a subculture with its own rules, hierarchy and status objects.
Most cheats are implemented by modifying the game software itself, even though many EULAs forbid modification. However, other types of hacks avoid modifying the game program by changing underlying system components such as drivers. These changes are harder to detect than a simple change in the video card’s depth checking, for example.
As game developers seek to increase security on the client side by ensuring that the operating system is correctly using various protections, cheaters have had to evolve their methods. A new class of cheats spoof hardware IDs at the UEFI firmware level, which is more privileged than the operating system, to get around these security measures.
While some people will never admit it, there is a significant percentage of the population that cheats in video games. The issue is not only a frustration for honest gamers, but can have financial impacts on the game publisher. If left unchallenged, it is difficult to build user loyalty and monetize content. A recent study from Irdeto found that 78% of gamers surveyed stated that cheating negatively impacted their multiplayer gaming experience. The cost of fighting this battle, with tens and hundreds of thousands of players being banned each week, can be staggering.