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Thursday
Nov172005

Game cheats – and an encouraging discovery

I received the following e-mail today from a reporter:

I cover the federal court system for The Denver Post and I'm working on a story about a lawsuit involving game cheats. Specifically, one cheat site is suing another on copyright grounds…

I've heard about the book you've written, Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age and I suspect you would have some thoughts on some of the other issues I want to touch on in my story.

Beyond the issue of cheat sites cheating each other, I'm also interested in exploring the question of what children make of using cheat sites and how parents ought to view it. Game makers frequently embed cheats into games for a variety of reasons, including access for users. Are there circumstances under which it is ethically acceptable for kids to use game cheats? When not? Some make the argument that violent games beget violent kids. Do video game cheats beget dishonest children?

Since I have not played a computer game since the days of Zork, I gave a somewhat lame opinion based on what I know about my son's gaming and use of cheats. But, I also forwarded the question to Brady, now 19, himself. His reply:

I never thought cheating in video games was much of a problem unless you're playing with other people (multiplayer) This is normally viewed as dishonorable and down right annoying. Cheating in a single-player video game is only as bad as skipping a pages in book or knowing the ending of a movie before you see it. [He found the analogy I tried to find, but couldn't! - Doug]

Also there are two different types of cheating. Developer's cheats are the ones the creators of the game want you to find. The other type are the hacker cheats, which you have to buy special software for. You can buy these devices (Action Replay, GameShark) at any dealer that sells games. I sometimes use both when available, but only for difficult or frustrating games. Also, sometimes there are some interesting secrets that developers don’t want you to find. (Grand Theft Auto’s notorious Hot Coffee scene, and debug rooms)

I have never made the connection between cheating in games and cheating in real life. I always knew cheating was wrong and I never really remember cheating in school. (Well maybe I scribbled some vocab words in my hand once or twice but I never made a habit of it.) I guess I always had a clear understanding of what is fantasy and what is real-life. (I don’t leap off buildings expecting to respawn close by; I don’t jump on people’s heads in hopes that spinning gold coins will come out of them; and I don’t have a pause screen.) [Parallel construction! - Doug] The bottom line is school and work are the exact opposite of video games and recreation, and I think that’ s how most people view them. I just don’t see the connection of cheating in video games to cheating in school – there’s just too big of gap…

I was impressed, as only a father can be, that my son has both writing skills and a good intellect. And has perhaps inherited my writing style – for good or ill. (Who are you and what have you done with Brady?)

This also tells me that kids are capable of more sophisticated reasoning and ethical thought than we might think.

Can your students tell the difference between games and reality? Are we worrying too much about raising an amoral generation who have gotten their values from Mario Brothers?

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Reader Comments (3)

Doug, you (and your son) raise an interesting point. When I'm waiting for large files to download, sometimes I play solitaire (on the computer). There is usually a key that allows me to "seek the next move", which *could* be perceived as cheating. Ditto looking at a chess book to learn new moves/countermoves. The developers hacks, used in a single-user environment, would be the equivalent. I would also venture to assume that quizzing oneself on vocab and peeking at the back of the card, or looking at the answer to a math homework problem because you can't solve it on your own are the academic equals.

However, in a multi-user environment, or in a classroom, using cheats to get ahead are clearly wrong. In the former, the only one I'm hurting is myself -- I don't actually learn anything. In the latter, I'm hurting others by gaining an unfair advantage.

This would be an interesting discussion to have with students, to see what their take on it is.
November 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Yeah, Laura, the other analogy I finally came up with is looking at completed crossword puzzles in the back of the book.

It IS harder to cheat in Solitaire on the computer!

Doug
November 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I just read an article about children cheating as well that was intriguing at http://blogs.dailycents.com/?p=819 talking about children cheating more now than ever before. It is really informative so check it out!

January 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
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