In Defense of Hacking Video Games

Mario Kart 8, for Nintendo’s WiiU, has reportedly been hacked. Shit.

Okay, let’s back up just a bit. According to the linked story above, the video game has been hacked in a very rudimentary fashion, not in a way that could be used to break online play. Also, according to the poster of the video featured in the article, he/she/they have no intention of releasing said hack or assisting others in cheating in online play. This is extremely important to note as it means that (1) I was a bit quick on the draw in my Tweet and (2) the online play in this game won’t, yet, turn into Mario Kart Wii.

I loved Mario Kart Wii. Some people didn’t, but I enjoyed it immensely, especially when racing online against people that had true skill with the game and were not rubber band assisted AI. That changed once the game and system were compromised and people started regularly playing online using mods that allowed them constant bullet bills, mushrooms, etc… It essentially destroyed random online matches. Nintendo attempted to ban those exploiting the hack(s), but there were so many that it was simply a lost cause right from the beginning. After a few attempts at an honest race and getting stuck with people that were exploiting compromises, I just gave up and raced only with friends. I’ve done a bit of racing online with Mario Kart 8, and don’t want to see it suffer the same fate.

It wasn’t just Mario Kart Wii though. The Conduit, another Wii game with online multiplayer suffered a similar fate, as do many online games (I think the Wii just must have been an easier crack, apparently). What I don’t get about this is what is the point? What joy is gained from giving yourself a Game Genie level advantage in a game against other people? This isn’t like picking Oddjob in Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. That’s just annoying, but you can still succeed. This is essentially making yourself invincible. I just don’t get the point of that. Are online bragging rights against people you don’t know really that important? I enjoyed using the Gameshark or in-game cheats on Goldeneye as much as the next guy (making myself invisible was a personal favorite), but it was either blanket cheats for multiplayer or me playing through solo missions with cheats on just for kicks. What I didn’t, and wouldn’t, do is spoil the fun for everyone else involved, and that’s exactly what this subset of hacking does. It robs a game of the fun, and creates an aggravating and frustrating experience for most people.

Now, all of that said, it’s critical for me to clarify that I don’t believe that the majority of hackers/modders go in for this kind of thing. I completely believe that this is more of a few bad apples ruining the barrel…or however that saying goes. Just based on my reading and viewing YouTube videos (such as the one above), it’s usually a case of people taking on a challenge and seeing what they can do with it. Just as I enjoy playing games, they enjoy breaking into the code and seeing how the games can be manipulated. Then, once they’ve succeeded on some level, testing it out against friends who may or may not have done the same. It’s like a closed community. There’s no will or desire there to ruin anyone else’s experience with the game. I have no issue with that at all. If that’s something you enjoy doing, then my hat’s off to you. You are far more talented in that arena than I am.

It’s also very much worth noting that in many cases, hacks or mods can actually supplement a game, or even alter the game until it’s a new experience. This article from PCmag highlights a few of the better ones and I’m certain that many of you reading this have watched or attempted Super Mario Frustration (one of the funniest YouTube videos I’ve ever seen featured someone attempting that game). This is where hacking a game becomes fun for everyone, and is the exact opposite of the people that use it to break online gaming in some way. I’ve read of more than a few cases where people have hacked a game in such a way so as to add something that the gaming community wanted, but the developer never added. Again, this is almost completely a positive thing. This is also why it’s imperative that I ensure that I’m not painting everyone that attempts to break into the coding of a game, PC, or console with the same brush.

No problem at all...

There are many more cases of people modding games to improve the experience without harming the experience of others than there are of the opposite, but just like with most negative news stories, it is the problem that gets the most attention, whether its fair or not. Ultimately, I’m not happy that this has happened because I know now that the clock is ticking down. At some point, this will spread to online play and slowly but surely finding a non-compromised race via wi-fi will be virtually impossible. But, while I’m not happy that the game has been compromised, I have to keep in mind that the people behind this mean no ill-will. Those people will come, but right now, these people are just doing something they enjoy, in the exact same way that I enjoy just playing the games.

Brandon Nicholson is a blogger for and the founder of Just Another Video Game Blog and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3 and PS4, Microsoft XBOX One and XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Brandon provides his readers with reviews, previews, release dates and up to date gaming industry news, trailers and rumors.

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