Hackers are prolific. They're in every platform, they're in every country, and they're in almost all of your favorite games. Some of them are seemingly benign when it comes to consumers, like those who release games early. Those hackers in particular might even seem like heroes to some of the general public. To developers its another story entirely, but for now let's focus on how hackers influence us as gamers. There's the other side of these anonymous Internet fiends that we consider not so good. Those are, of course, the hackers in online games.
Overwatch has been rife with people hacking and making the game troublesome for those playing by the rules. This is only one most recent example. You're sure to have encountered hackers in your online games, whether you've known it or not. Some are blatant about it, like those who use lag switches. Then there are others who are much more subtle about it, like gaining infinite in-game money to use without altering their playing style much. Some of these hackers affect other players more than others, but when they do in a big way, it can be the most infuriating thing on the planet. It's like fighters who take cheap or illegal shots and get away with it. “Come on ref! It was right in front of you!”
Developers and publishers do what they can to combat hackers. They can suspend accounts that are suspected of cheating, but that doesn't of course prevent the hacker from coming back after their suspension, or creating another account. For every technique that has been created to keep hackers from hacking, hackers have found a way around it. Hackers gonna hack, am I right?
Apparently enough has been enough for some locations. South Korea passed a law last December that they hope will bring down some of the hackers for good. It's going to be put in place later this month and could fine hackers up to the U.S. equivalent of $50,000. It could also put them in prison for up to five years.
This seems all well and good from a revenge standpoint of those who just can't stand being taken advantage of by hackers. I'm sure I've felt the same feeling at least once or twice. There's the split second where we would do anything to those who have wronged us. Like that sassy cashier at the grocery store who's super snarky to you. Inside you can't help but scream obscenities immediately. But then you think about it for a moment, realize it's a crappy job, and you'd probably struggle to keep up appearances after a while too. Same with hackers. When you've been bested by someone you know is hacking, you scream words and phrases you didn't even think you knew and slam that report button wherever it may be. But thinking about it, I wouldn't wish five years in prison on that person.
That aside, let's take a closer look at the South Korean hacking law. It's incredibly vague, stating that people are “not to perform acts that disturb the game distribution process or rules.” That could mean those hackers that release games early, it could mean those that cheat in Overwatch, and it could mean those that use a cheat code in a mobile game. It's hard to say what that wording could entail.
There's also the fact that the law prohibits the creation and distribution of private servers. This could be a big issue in many ways. There are some games that players can still enjoy even after the developers have stopped supporting them via private servers. This law would make that illegal. All of these anti-hacker laws could also have an impact on modding communities. Official user-created mods are starting to become more normal with many games offering a section of the menu just for it. Think Cities: Skylines, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Vague hacking laws could bring down the modding community just when it started to reach its ultimate prime.
Another important factor to consider here is this: if South Korea's anti-hacker laws have at least a moderate level of success, other countries could follow suit. It's common place for businesses to adopt practices from their competitors if they are successful. It's also not uncommon for countries to pick up laws and different facets of government from the rest of the world if they prove to be helpful. Hacking is a worldwide problem, so laws against it could become worldwide as well. At the moment, it's relegated to a small country in Asia, so the rest of the world's hackers and gaming communities can still breathe easy. But that might not be the truth for long.
How do you feel about South Korea's anti-hacker laws? Is it too strong of a punishment or not strong enough? Do you wish it wasn't happening or are you glad it is? I'd love to hear your comments below!