When someone does something that is not allowed in a computer game, others tell him that he is cheating or hacking.

Which word is more suitable?

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    Both could be, depending on the precise activity being alleged. "Cheating" is doing something contrary to an agreed-upon set of rules (in the context of a computer game, this usually means a "cheat code" that players consider it ungentlemanly to use); "Hacking" is altering an existing system to behave in a different way (in a computer game, editing or supplementing game code).
    – user867
    Jan 20 '14 at 23:06
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    Building on user867's comment: since multiplayer games are usually crafted in such a way that the rules are enforced by the game itself rather than merely "agreed upon," it's likely that hacking is often the better choice in this context. Jan 20 '14 at 23:08

"Cheating" means to violate rules.

"Hack" means:

a. to devise or modify (a computer program), usually skillfully.

b. to circumvent security and break into (another's server, website, or the like) with malicious intent: Skilled criminals hacked the Bank of America's servers yesterday, jeopardizing thousands of accounts.

Hacking could be a higher level of cheating, because hacking could include more skills than simply cheating by using cheat codes.

However, the cheat codes can actually modify the game. So, to conclude, if we are actually to use the proper word for it, it should be hacking, not just cheating.

  • 1
    Hacking isn't necessarily breaking into a computer system. The "I'm in!" definition has been popularised in fiction, but it's not the only kind of hacking used in games. (In some cases, for instance, games rely on particular configuration files to determine the behaviour of certain game variables; Editing or replacing these files will result in different game behaviour. This is hacking the game, but no breaking in is involved.)
    – user867
    Jan 21 '14 at 1:15
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    I don't understand your last paragraph. Cheat codes can alter a game, but not the game program; It's just performing a behaviour that it was always capable of without modification. Plus, it's possible to cheat without using a cheat code if not all the rules of the game are enforced by the game's code, so not all cheating is hacking.
    – user867
    Jan 21 '14 at 3:32
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    @LesterNubla The important point here is that variables are supposed to change as part of the program's normal functioning, in much the same way as the time displayed on a clock is supposed to change while it runs. Using a cheat code would be adjusting the time by turning the time adjustment knob; Hacking would be dismantling the clock and putting it together so that it runs slightly differently.
    – user867
    Jan 21 '14 at 6:01
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    @user867 Thanks for that wonderful explanation. :) Jan 21 '14 at 7:08
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    @LesterNubla ...The point being that cheat codes modify the game, but not the program that runs the game - in much the same way that sneaking taken chess pieces back into play doesn't change the shape of the chessboard. As such, cheating is not always hacking. (Incidentally, not all hacking is cheating, especially if the hack is agreed on by all players in advance.)
    – user867
    Jan 22 '14 at 1:05

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