The Future Is Now: Cheating In Online Games Leads To Arrests In Japan
from the not-the-best-use-of-your-time dept
Any video game producer who produces a product for which online play is a large component also has to fight an ongoing arms-race against cheaters and hackers who gain an unfair advantage in the game and threaten the gamer ecosystem. It’s annoying, it sucks, and the fight is unending. For online games, that’s just kind of the deal. Most companies work with programmers and 3rd party service providers, like Steam, to try to ban players who cheat. Other companies, such as Blizzard, choose to try to twist copyright law into some kind of anti-cheater pretzel. Japan, on the other hand, appears to be done screwing around.
Newspapers in the land of the rising sun are reporting that three teenagers have been arrested for cheating in the online first-person shooter Sudden Attack. Yes, arrested.
Yomiuri Online, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, reports that this is the first time gamers have had criminal liability charged against them in Japan for allegedly using cheat programs. One of the gamers is a university freshman, another is a 17 year-old vocational school student, and the last of the trio is a 17-year-old high school student. In Nexon’s statement about the legal charges, the company explains that these three players allegedly used the cheat tools repeatedly in the game. IT Media reports that distribution of cheats was also allegedly involved.
Yup, things just got a little more real in the realm of pretending to shoot everyone you see. Yes, cheating is annoying. But criminal? That seems like a massive overreaction and tremendously dangerous. Cheating in online games goes back all the way to the dial-up days and companies have always taken it upon themselves to keep cheaters out of their games. They may not like the arms race, but that hardly means it should reach the level of criminal liability — especially when the line between cheating and just gaining some kind of advantage may get blurry pretty fast. It’s reasonable to argue that if the game maker allows something to happen in the game, then it’s on that game maker to set things up to block actions it doesn’t like. Opening it up to the criminal justice system seems like a recipe for disaster.
Cheating is wrong, but couldn’t Nexon simply ban these players? Maybe the company tried, but was unsuccessful. Or maybe Nexon should’ve tried harder to combat the cheats. But making them a crime?
It’s easy to point at cheaters and say they aren’t worth defending, but nobody really wants to open up this can of worms where we can all be charged with crimes for messing around in a game.