Beating the System

This past Christmas millions of kids received the newest and hottest video games under their Christmas trees. The games promise to test the skills of even the most accomplished gamer. But instead of rising to the challenge, many kids promptly looked for ways to beat the system. Soon after unwrapping their new video or GameBoy games, many kids began searching the Internet for what are known as cheats. Cheats are tricks that enable a player to increase or, in some cases, ensure, his chances of winning. For instance, they can make a player invincible or they can help him bypass some, or even all, of the game's requirements. Cheats usually take the form of special instructions written into the software. These codes were originally designed to help manufacturers test software. But now, they’ve become an integral part of the game. As the Austin American-Statesman newspaper put it, "a host of hidden codes has been created by manufacturers expressly to assist frustrated, impatient, or just plain indolent players.” Some companies have even set up 900 numbers—the kind that bill by the minute—which kids can call and get cheat codes at a price. In other words, we have adults making a profit from helping kids find a way around the rules. You may think that this is much ado about nothing. I don't think it is. Kids used to play games across the table from one another, and they kept each other honest. I can remember playing board games as a child and occasionally yelling, "Johnny is cheating!” Well, now, we have cheating programmed right into the games. In effect, we are hard-wiring into kids the idea that cheating is normal. And once you teach kids an attitude, it affects how they see all of life. And if you don't think so, just ask any high school or college professor. A recent survey by Who's Who Among American High School Students revealed that 80 percent of students cheat at school. And the Internet is full of sites where college students can buy term papers instead of doing the work themselves. One such site sells an astounding 1.6 million term papers per month! In a culture where the name of the game is "beat the system," is it any wonder that the public is curiously indifferent about the Washington scandals. So the president has lied to cover up sex? "No big deal," two-thirds of the people say, and the reason is clear. They're being conditioned to think cheating is the way you play the game. If your own kids like video games, remind them that God gave us rules to live by, not to frustrate us, but to teach us obedience and build character. And if your kids are stuck on a tough level of their video game and are tempted to cheat, remind them that true happiness comes from doing what's right—not winning at any cost.


Chuck Colson


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