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Personal: Hacking Games to Share the Wealth


I recently discovered that one of my favorite app hacking communities, iapphacks.com, has shut down due to a sudden new-found conscience regarding game hacking.  This has prompted me to evaluate my hacks and whether or not I’m doing the right thing.  The short answer is, yes, I believe I am.

Over the last year this blog has been alive, I’ve gotten a lot of great comments from all of you who have used my hacks.  I think I’ve saved you mofos a lot of money, haven’t I? :D  And a couple of you have asked me why I hack iPhone games and post them on my blog, whether what I’m doing is illegal, whether I feel bad for the gaming developers that I’m shorting by posting hacks … well, here are my answers:

Why do you hack games?

I only hack a certain type of game – the freemium social game.  I do this for two reasons:

  1. I’m a cheap bastard.
  2. The freemium social game is, at it’s core, a malicious business model designed to prey on people with addictive personalities.

Listen, I work in the tech industry.  I understand the difference between a game studio that is trying to make money vs. a game studio that rakes in $50k per day with clever social engineering that is ultimately exploitative of human weakness.

Fun gaming fact: freemium social games are like crack.  Imagine you give a kid some crack.  It’s really fun for a while, right?  Then you take the crack away.  How much will that kid pay to get the addictive substance back?

It’s the same with freemium social games (although obviously to a lesser extent than hard drugs, but hey what do I know, I’ve never tried crack, ha).  You give the gamer a little taste of your game, then you make it impossible for him to progress in the game at the same rate as before without shelling out some real money.  These game mechanics are predatory in nature, exploiting the very real human weakness of addiction.

It’s not even that I mind paying for things – I would gladly pay $60 for a good game, like I do for console games.  The problem is that the freemium social gaming model makes me feel dirty inside.  Violated, even.  So, am I like a Robin Hood of social game hacking?  No, definitely not.  I’m just a girl who wants to help others enjoy a game without feeling like there is a proverbial corporate hand in their pocket fishing for their wallet.

Is what you’re doing illegal and if I use your hacks, is that illegal?

No.  Nothing I post here is illegal.  This is why – only server-sided hacks are illegal.  The “hacks” I post are actually more like game cheats – they manipulate game data already downloaded to your iphone/ipad.  Fun legal fact: once an app is downloaded onto your phone, it becomes your property and you can mod it as you see fit.

Don’t you feel bad for the poor game developers?

Not at all.  Fun business fact: game developers aren’t paid by how much their apps generate in revenue.  They’re paid a salary, not commission.  Whatever money you’re depriving the company by hacking the game isn’t coming out of the developers’ pockets – it’s coming out of the company valuation.  So if you’re taking money away from anyone, it’s the investment bankers who stand to benefit when the company IPOs or sells out.  Feel bad now?  Didn’t think so.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, I’m more than happy to pay real money for a great game.  The problem with the freemium social gaming model is that it discourages great game making and encourages laziness on the part of game developers.  Why bother with innovation around new game mechanics or graphics upgrades or, I don’t know, developed plots and characters, when you can make a pixelated ice cream cone in 5 minutes and charge 50 gems (which cost $9.99 in real money)?  Lazy!

Ok, I hope that’s satisfied your curiosity about where I stand on the hacking issue.  Please let me know in  comments how you feel!

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    • Hahaha, I wish – all the data is encrypted and server sided so I have to wait with someone with much greater skills than I have to hack it :) If it ever happens, though, I’ll be sure to share it with you!

  1. I totally agree with your views. Plus, once in a while, I’ll download a movie or game illegally – but only to see if it’s worth my money. If it is, I’ll gladly pay to buy the real thing.
    But games like the sims are usually not worth it, until they go through a massive price drop – so I’ll try it, to see what it’s worth, and then uninstall it again.. And buy the real thing when EA’s reasonable ;).

  2. I agree with every single word. Freemium games are the lowest and worst kind of game that forces you to expend money in order to “be good”. It is worse than shit like Oblivion’s horse armor DLC.
    You may say you’re not a “Robin Hood”, but what you do is pretty much that. Thanks, m’am!

  3. Agree. What most freemium games implement could be called “dark patterns” which are UIs that are designed to trick people.

  4. Modern, techno, girl version of Robin Hood… aka Robine Hood… Let us just baptize you here and now as Girl is sooo faceless, anonymous and distant… :) I am a hopeless romantic so this one resonates with me… :P
    So dear Robine, I do not think that there is an “addictive personality”, though… :) There are people susceptible to addiction. Your personality is addictive as people get addicted to your personlaity, posts and all the crazy stuff you are doing here… :P I am definitely a Robine-junkie…:P
    Take care, and keep up spreading the wealth of the Rich amongst the Poor! XD I hope you’ll meet Little Johh and Friar Tuck (or their respective girl versions XD) along your travels full of fun and joy and hacks and mods and crazy writings! ;)

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