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In almost any context, you would probably be upset to find your child cheating. If I found out my kids had cheated on a school test, they’d be grounded for sure. If I caught them cheating at a board game, well, that’s admittedly not as terrible of an infraction, but it would still make me mighty upset. So if I see them cheat at a video game, I suppose I shouldn’t be too happy about that either, right?
But it’s not that cut and dry. Because I cheat at video games, too. As do half the people in the world who play them. Cheating has been built into the very idea of playing video games. Pop almost any game into your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and you’re likely to see a link on the main menu that says, “CHEATS.” It is there so that you can enter secret codes that will make the game easier for you -- they’ll make your character invincible, or slow down the speed of the game, or fill your virtual wallet with gobs of unearned money. Often these cheat codes can be found online (there are dozens of Web sites that catalog them), but sometimes you can get them from the game itself. And if the developers of these games are creating these cheat codes, doesn’t that mean they’re okay with us using them?
I think of it this way: Video games are expensive. We pay a lot of money to experience all that a game has to offer. If the game is simply too difficult, and all you’re likely to see of it is 15 minutes of the first level, then you have to cheat simply to get your money’s worth. Still, when my daughter is playing a game and she calls out to me, “I can’t make it past this part -- can’t you put in one of those codes so I can just skip it?” it still feels wrong to me. I don’t want to raise a child who immediately looks for the easiest, least-rewarding way out. So, yeah, maybe video game cheats sometimes make it too easy for kids. But it is just a game.
I think I’m satisfied as long as she’s not using cheats to beat other people. That would definitely be an ethics violation. When it comes to cheating against computer-controlled opponents, however, I say go for it. Because cheating also means less time spent glued to a game controller, and that can’t be a bad thing, right?