VGT – To Hack Or Not To Hack?

Not THAT kind of hacking!

To hack or not to hack, that is the question.  At least that’s the question that I’m pondering this morning.  What am I talking about?  Hacking is the process of altering a computer’s software and/or hardware for purposes outside of the original design.  In business, hacking can clearly be a terrible thing – a hacker might gain access to a bank or a hospital and gain access to information.  But in the world of video games, it is not as serious a situation.  There are hacks for every major game system.  The main purpose for hacking is typically to run emulators.  For example, a typical hacked Xbox 360 would be able to play almost any game from an older game system.  You could play the original Super Mario Brothers on a NES emulator on your Microsoft system.

The Zelda exploit

I would like to describe how I hacked my wii.  This was a few years ago, so the process is probably much simpler now.  I heard about something called “The Twilight Hack” so I looked it up on the internet.  I basically followed the instructions I found there.  I copied some files to the SD card.  I used my Twilight Princess disk to go into the game I guided Link over to talk to someone and that activated the hack.  There must have been some security hole in the game.  From there I was able to reboot the wii and all of the sudden there was a new channel on the screen called the Home Brew channel!

A whole new world

It was kind of cool.  I looked up all kinds of programs that would run on the Home Brew channel.  There were games that others had made, emulators, and I was intrigued to discover there was even a DVD player program.  Now that’s something; Nintendo made the Wii with a built in DVD drive but did not put any factory software to play movies.  I guess they determined for me that I would not enjoy watching a DVD movie on my wii.

The Positives about having a hacked Wii were many.  I found emulators to play many ROMs.  The Wii played classic NES and SNES games perfectly, and they looked great on my Vizio.  I also found an Atari emulator and it was great to see some of those “old friends” – games I had forgotten about.  Now, if I own these systems already, why would I want to play them on an emulator?  Good question.  Sometimes, if I want to play an older system, I have to connect it to the TV and attach everything correctly.   Often, by the time I get everything hooked up, I’ve lost the desire to play – so playing an emulator saves time.  It has also given me exposure to games that I never played.  As a collector, it helps me to keep my eye open for an original cartridge.  Emulators are great but there is nothing as cool as playing the original game on the original system.  Without an emulator, I would never have tried a great game like Chrono-Trigger.  Now I want that original cartridge so badly!

The Negatives about hacking a system are that it violates the warranty (which on my Wii had long run out).  It can also put you “outside” that world the game designers created.  Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony do NOT want you to hack your system.  There is a battle in which they are constantly trying to perform updates to stop the hackers.  Hackers in turn find a new way for the hack to work and release it.  The seesaw goes back and forth.  That is what happened to me.  I thoughtlessly performed a system update on my Wii.  When I restarted, my Homebrew Channel was gone and my poor little Wii was brainwashed again.  The only way to stop being updated is to “unplug”.

The Xbox 360 hack unlocks games

I had a friend of mine hack my Xbox 360.  He had to open it up and make some changes to circuitry in order for it to work.  It truly does some awesome stuff.  I can copy a game onto the hard drive and play it without the disk.  That feature came in  handy when I rented Batman Arkham City and it kept locking up when playing from the disk.  I dumped it onto the hard drive and it played fine.  (My son was actually the one playing it).  But now I’m outside the world of Microsoft.  I can’t connect to Microsoft Live even to buy and download a game because the hack might be detected and removed.  It’s lonely living on the outside sometimes.  If I ever changed my mind, I’m not even sure I could go back.  I actually have some mixed feelings about it.

There are some ethical considerations.  Is it wrong to hack your game system?  Is it wrong to play games on an emulator rather than purchasing them legitimately?  Do you have some other purpose for hacking your system that I haven’t thought of?  What do you think?

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