Hacking In Video Games

Screenshots of hacking minigames in Deus Ex and Syndicate

Who knew that hacking could take so many different forms! Which hacking mini games do you enjoy the most? Which ones do you hate?

Hacking minigames must achieve a very difficult balance between being too easy and too difficult or confusing. If a hacking game is too easy, it will make the player feel as though hacking is a mundane chore rather than a clever workaround for their problems. On the flip side, hacking that is too difficult will not pay off in alleviating other challenges in the game, and players will avoid it.

We all interact with digital systems daily, so we expect a semblance of realism in our hacking simulations. We also expect a hacking problem that is logical in nature, since computers run on logic-based commands.

If a hacking game is too easy, it will make the player feel as though hacking is a mundane chore rather than a clever workaround for their problems

My favorite hacking mini games are in the new Deus Ex games and in Syndicate.

Deus Ex places in emphasis on thwarting the internal security system of a network by deploying viruses at critical moments as you decrypt directories and navigate your way to the access point. All of these activities have spatial and visual representations but they also are accurately representative of real networking concepts which makes the whole simulation very rich and engaging.

In Syndicate (EA, 2012), hacking involves holding down a single button while maintaining line of sight on an enemy. It sounds too simple but it's really fun because of the challenge of doing this while also being in a gunfight with multiple other enemies. Once your hack is complete, the invincibility shield around your target will go down for a limited amount of time allowing you to unload on them for the kill. Defeating enemies via hacking felt really rewarding even though the hacking mechanic itself was very simple.

It sounds too simple but it's really fun

Another great hacking minigame is in Fallout 3/New Vegas/4 where you actually search through a terminal's RAM in maintenance mode to find an unencrypted password for the system. Of all the hacking games I've ever played, this is probably the most realistic. It does feel more tedious but it's very logic-based with no time limit.

Those are my favorites! 😎💻 Now what are yours?


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