In the wake of the recent E3 doxing of attending journalists and the news of Epic Games being sued over Fortnite's limited cybersecurity, it's interesting to examine the effect hackers have had on the industry at large. You wouldn't think it, but gaming and hacking go hand in hand, not only in the form of cheating but also in the form of general game creation. Ever since the early years, hacks were implemented in the initial game design so that developers could playtest mechanics and ensure levels were properly manageable. Now, however, hacking itself has become its own enterprise and the golden marketplace for this online activity is the gaming world.
The Evolution Of Hacking In Gaming
Hacking has come a long way from mere POKE instructions and Action Replay codes. In these days and times, there's an entire market for in-game cheats, which can make hackers a fortune. One such example is Manfred, who has made hacking games, like WildStar, his living for the past 20 years. Even Fortnite has beckoned its own hacking network, wherein nearly 20 different children—yes, one of them is 14—were stealing players' accounts and selling them for hundreds of pounds. These days, what with the advent of microtransactions making companies billions of dollars on simple in-game skins, a sort of online underworld or black market has emerged allocating everything from bot accounts and auto-aim assist capabilities, to stolen personal information and even bank accounts.
The Good Of Hacking
I remember the simpler days when plugging in my GameShark codes get me unlimited rare candies and master balls. Game modification was always so fascinating to me, specifically in the vein of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mods with crazy cars and features. These are the more positive hacking capabilities prevalent in the gaming community. Even entire games have been created through hacking, just look to all the awesome Pokemon ROM Hacks there are. There's also the varied ways in which hackers have discovered hidden treats inside games, like potential VR options on Nintendo's Switch and Capcom's scrapped Resident Evil sequel. Team IGAS worked painstakingly hard for years to release a free version of the early Resident Evil 2 in 2013, coining it Resident Evil 1.5. Not all hackers have good intentions, and not all hacks are merely for cheating.
The Bad Of Hacking
Most recently, well-known PUBG star Michael "Shroud" Grzsesiek had his Twitter account hacked. The unknown hacker went so far as to post derogatory racial terms, as well as even threatening to post nude photos of the PUBG player. Even Ninja, legendary Fortnite streamer, became the victim of hacking this past July when his Instagram was hijacked with a phony Samsung phone promotion. These are only minor, as hacking in the video game industry has seen some terrifying end results.
I'll never forget when Sony's player base was attacked leading to one of the biggest data breaches in the industry with PlayStation Plus users' credit card and personal information being leaked. Just recently, Epic Games had been hit with a lawsuit that surrounded hacking, as their multibillion-dollar success with Fortnite was similarly breached. The online gaming community is certainly a hacker-friendly place, so consumers should take caution when considering who they're playing with and what other people may offer them while playing.
Does The Good Outweigh The Bad?
Unfortunately, the bad hacking practices tend to outweigh the good ones. While hacking capabilities can benefit the gaming industry, I think there are still issues that many developers and publishers tend to overlook. Better security and encryption capabilities are necessary to protect younger audiences from malicious account hacking.
With Steam and Epic Games accounts being stolen almost daily and with the doxing of many game journalists becoming a fad, it's only going to get worse if no one tries to fix it. The whole swatting epidemic, wherein players will call the police on their online opponents, is another example of players not taking proper precautions and others behaving with hacker-like mentalities of often acting outside the legal limits. There are some ways to protect yourself while gaming online, as it's a travesty that necessitates personal measures and corrections.
Hacking For The Future
There are several ways that hacking can be used for better practices in the gaming community. For one, organizations such as the CIA and NSA can be looked to for inspiration, as they pulled some of the very best blackhat hackers from prisons and turned them into cyber securities agents to help our country infiltrate terrorist organizations and thwart other political threats. The gaming industry could use some hackers to help implement better security strategies and network capabilities for less interference.
Even Bethesda learned from years of backlash that modding is a fan service tool, which led to the creation of their own modding marketplace. All developers and publishers should strive for their own mod market, as well as to push for incentives for positive hacking activities. Just look at what Valve gave one lucky hacker for spotting a critical malfunction in Steam.
While there is a precedent for hacking in the future, there should be some form of regulation. For instance, the story of David Pokora tells that of a Halo enthusiast, an incredibly intelligent software engineer, and one of the founding members of "Xbox Underground," which is a community of Microsoft hackers that eventually were apprehended on several counts of fraud, identity theft, and stealing trade secrets. A simple group of Halo hackers suddenly blossomed into building illegal Xbox One prototypes before the console was even finished being manufactured.
It may seem like all fun and games, but the reality of hacking in this industry is one that must find its foothold in terms of regulation and proper legalities across the world. It's a tricky subject, especially since the two are relatively one and the same, though hacking can become far more dangerous than gaming. It's imperative to stay vigil online and to protect your accounts to the furthest extent. Until hacking becomes a more positive force in the future and gaming corporations take cybersecurity more seriously, gamers must ensure they are encrypted at all costs.