Review-Cheating-Gaining an Advantage in Videogames

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Citation

  • Consalvo, Mia, Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. MIT Press, 2014.
    • reviewed by Adam Makkar

Overview

Gaming culture is something that is a weird world in a space that doesn’t exist with very little accountability. Consalvo writes about this space as someone who has engaged with it. They are a part of that community, or at least has existed in similar spaces as that community. When they talk about it they are not talking about it as an outsider. This text discusses the ways in which “cheating” manifests in gaming culture, firstly by defining cheating as the use of cheat codes, strategy guides, and buying and selling in game items and accounts using real world currency. She talks about the ways that cheating is used to challenge the way that games are designed to be played, the symbiotic relationship between gamers and game developers, and the creating of information about games outside of the games themselves. (ie. strategy guides, reviews, forums)

Key Ideas

In this conclusion chapter Consalvo presents the case study that they conducted on the merger of “alakhazam.com” into “zam.com”. Following the ways in which the community reacted to it, the sequence of events on the website’s and the community’s. Alakhazam is a user submitted forum discussing strategies and approaches for games as well as a strong anti cheating proponent. They were purchased by Game Exchange, a website that facilities the selling of in game items and accounts for real life money. Consalvo noted that right after the merger was announced the users were outraged posting about how this was the end of this platform, that they were done using this platform, and calling them hypocrites for merging under the very thing that they were such strong proponents against. Consalvo also noted that the very next day however the number of posts being created and interacted with did not change, and people, some the very same that excommunicated the platform from their lives were still interacting with it the exact same ways that the had been before the merger.

They also discuss the ways in which gamers and game developers have a push and pull relationship where it is a constant power struggle between one another with out being able to exist with out one another. Consalvo describes the climate and general etiquette of what these gaming FAQ , forums, and guides. Often times it is based around expanding upon the gaming experience with interesting facts about the game and the creation of it as well as secret hidden “easter eggs” as well as explanations and elaborations of the storyline of the story. These are almost always introduced with spoiler warnings. These community based websites can be used as a platform to expand on the gaming experience or to “debatebly” ruin it.

Commentary

I was interested by this text because it was discussing cheating and I was interested in if cheating in a video game ruins the point of play in the first place or not. Why cheat at something you decided to subjugate yourself too? Especially if it’s something that's been designed to enjoy in the way it’s presented to you. It’s something that I myself have done, growing up I would make accounts in games of all kinds, Runescape, League of Legends, and most recently Hearthstone, and level up, rank up, and collect items and skills of interest and then sell them online to people. It seemed like easy money to make, especially since at its base, I liked playing those games. Of course the monotony was boring but that was the reason people are buying accounts. They don’t want to go through the monotony of leveling up a character to be able to do certain things or they didn’t have the skill to be ranked at a certain level. I wanted to know if I was cheating and then if it mattered. Was I still playing and were those buying the accounts playing? What this text has made me realize is that cheaters are still playing they’re just playing an iteration of the game. They’re not playing the game how it was designed but rather they’re using it as a platform to play a different game. Avoiding being caught, cheating the system, and the weird stature of being a certain level/rank at something. Interestingly I’ve found that games have capitalized on that through micro transactions, you can now skip waiting, collecting, or even playing. Why collect the resources, reach the level, and then waiting for a certain item to be crafted in game when you could just pay 50 cents for it. The other thing about cheating in the more direct chance, the cheat codes and aim assists and mods that cheat your way to mastery is that ruins the concept of play for everyone but the cheater. Now the players set into the same lobby or world or whatever it is are no longer able to have fun or play but rather feed into the cheater’s enjoyment of the game.