Illegitimate Practices as Legitimate Participation: Game Cheat Sites in a Tween Virtual Community

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings of the Seventh Conference of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning


C. Chinn, G. Erkins, and S. Puntambekar

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Last Page



Much research has described the various practices of gaining access and participation in multi-user game communities. Cheat websites that are a prominent part of the game culture and industry have been debated because of their illegitimate nature but received little attention in terms of their educational value. In this paper we analyze the cheat sites created by players for a teen virtual world called, which encourages youth ages 8-16 to participate in a range of social activities and play casual science games. Analysis of a sample of 257 cheat sites resulted in typologies for both the cheats and sites in terms of quality and quantity of science content. A case study of an especially active cheat site and analysis of player-written articles in Whyville’s newspaper illuminate the illegitimate and legitimate aspects of cheating in this virtual world. Implications of these findings as cultural artifacts of the game community and as guides for designing informal online learning activities are discussed.

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