Judge John Hodgman Episode 22: Tips and Tricks and Justice


In this episode, we are joined by SPECIAL GUEST and EXPERT WITNESS Morgan Webb, of G4 TV's X-Play. John argues that using a strategy guide when playing a video game is cheating, pure and simple. His friend Josef argues that while it provides an advantage, it's not out of line to use a guide and constitutes no cheating.

You may view the evidence for this case behind the jump, and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or through this RSS feed.

Josef's Evidence

Exhibit A:
"There is actually a precedent related to video games. The case of Lewis Galoob Toys Inc. v. Nintendo of America Inc. made the Game Genie legal to use. It indicated that using a game genie to modify the code of games did not create derivative works. A court accepted this decision on similar grounds and that is a far higher bar for changing the gameplay than the case today."
Lewis Galoob Decision


Behind The Jump Link Is Wrong

The behind the jump links to an older jump (tomato/justice)

Sense of Humor?

I find it a little tragic that neither of these gamer dudes has any trace of a sense of humor, not on this matter, perhaps not at all.

my thoughts

When I'm playing video games, it's because I like to have fun. As soon as playing the game becomes tedious, it's no longer fun. I have an increasingly limited amount of time to devote to video games due to classes, so I would prefer to spend as little amount of the time playing something that has become tedious.
If a game's difficulty becomes frustratingly annoying, to the point where a guide is required to advance, then that's the fault of the game's designer, not on the player.

Portal (and Portal 2) would be a terrific example where it can have difficult parts, but it is so well-designed that the player is so engrossed trying to figure out the puzzles, making the problem solving process fun, not tiresome.

The Laws and Ethics of Video Games

This is a topic that is close to my heart and is within my personal area of expertise for I have been playing video games as far back in my life as I can remember. The matter of cheating in video games is not as black and white as one might expect and a wide gulf of gray spans the two sides depending upon the game and the method by which its trials were overcome.

The statement "I beat [Mega Man X] last week." implies immediately to all other gamers that the game was completed without any outside aid, be it advice and tips from friends, a strategy guide or the most heinous use of cheats or cheat codes. To complete a game by anything other means than ones own wit, skill and fiery determination is a form of cheating to me. The above statement would have to be modified to include the level by which one cheated such as, "I beat [Mega Man X] last week, but I had to use an FAQ to find out how to get past [Armored Armadillo]." or "I beat [Mega Man X] last week with my [Game Genie] in order to win in the most cowardly way possible."

I fully admit that I have used strategy guides and FAQs before completing a game on more than one occasion, however that being said I would not claim to have beaten the game without further informing the person (most likely a beautiful woman at a local night club I was trying to seduce) that I had some form of outside help. This does not by definition "taint" my experience of the game but it does and should alter the perception of others as to what degree of skill I possess at said game.

As Judge Hogdman alluded to in his judgement a video game is properly played when it is first attempted purely with individual (or communal only in the case of co-operative games) adroitness and cunning. Should one possess a command of the game and the physical deftness to complete it than by all means they can and should go back to the game in order to, using whatever means they deem necessary, collect hidden items and power-ups, ect. These people can claim that they have beaten the game with no stigma attached and should rightfully feel proud and superior to those who have not (especially if the game is particularly difficult). If one becomes "stuck" and is unable to complete a game by virtue of their own talents and must then consult a strategy guide or FAQ they may still complete the game but should ethically thereafter inform others at what point they gave up and turned to other sources to beat said game.

As always Judge Hodgman has rendered a fair and correct judgement despite his lack of knowledge of the particular subject at hand or any legal training as recognized by any current lawful society. It is with the utmost respect that I tip my metaphorical cap to both John and Judge Hodgman for victories earned within the walls of Dr. Wilys castle and the court room.


-Jordan Kirk Ferguson

Good ruling but.....

I have to say I agree with Judge Hodgman's ruling. My own personal style of playing games is to play through once and then if I feel there may be things I missed play through again with a strategy guide. That way I enjoy it on all possible levels.

But it's important to note that, Megaman X is not stupid!

Why else would these guys be playing it nearly 20 years after it came out. It had a great story which was not articulated well in the podcast and the game play was challenging and visually stunning (especially the Armored Armadillo level, with the mine cart jump). Usually Judge Hodgman reserves judgment until he's heard the facts but he didn't even look at the game for this case. If he were truly concerned with justice, he would play Megaman X, or at least force his children to play it while he watched.

It is such a good game that I still have a copy and play it from time to time, even though I have beaten it several times. I'm going to play a few levels right now.