Cheating & Modding in Video Games: A Place of Social Liminality
Please join us in the Collaboration Space for a talk on Cheating and Modding by English PhD student Jennifer Rickert! Read below for more details... see you there!
Gamers are well aware of cheating. Whether through build-in cheat codes, script editors, or even console commands,they know what it means to cheat; or at least they think they do. Despite the programmed affordances for cheating in the code of many video games, the concept itself remains socially constructed and abstract, resisting precise definitions as to which practices constitute cheating, and which can be understood as “modification”. My paper bridges understandings and performances of cheating acts in video games with concepts of game modification.
Drawing from Ian Bogost, Katherine Isbister, and Jesper Juul, I explore the practice of cheating in video games, from the Game Genie through to the emergence of popular video game modification (e.g. The Sims). This practice exists in a liminal state, where some mods are not only socially accepted, but also a developer-encouraged aspect of the gaming experience (e.g. World of Warcraft, Fallout 4), while others are shunned as undesirable, non-immersive, or outright cheating. I explore the boundary at which the alteration of game design or interactivity evolves from a modification to a cheating act, arguing for a reconceptualization of game modification as a socially sanctioned version of cheating.
If cheating is defined as any action which goes against the intended design, difficulty, or socially perceived ethos, how far can cheating or modification go before the player is no longer playing the same game? No one plays the same version of Monopoly, yet we continue to call it by the same name.
Jenn Rickert is an interdisciplinary-trained academic, currently in the English PhD program, who specializes in the study of people, technology, and culture. Currently, her research focuses on gender, power structures, and social dynamics surrounding competitive gaming communities, particularly within World of Warcraft. She is also interested in gaming cultures (more broadly), identity, embodiment, gamification, gaming narratives, world building, storytelling, cultural reciprocity, and human-technology interactions.
Her research interests and object-texts have included 3D printing of archaeological artifacts & semiological meanings (MA thesis), modification & cheating in (video)games, emotion and game-investment, microtransactions/DLCs, role-playing (traditional & non-traditional), paratext, video game lore & narrative, and Twitch.