Hey! That's Cheating!

Inventive macro programming can enhance gameplay and relieve monotony. But does it cross the line?

I recently had a chance to use the Logitech G15 keyboard, which ranks as one of the company's top gaming products. Apart from the little LCD screen, which has a variety of uses, the feature that truly caught my attention was the eighteen fully programmable macro buttons. When used in conjunction with the "M" keys, which work like shift buttons, a user can program up to 54 individual macros for any given game. Each macro can be programmed with an unlimited number of keystrokes, and timing delays can be inserted to match game rules or simulate actual human usage. Those who write long macros run the risk of getting stuck, since the sequence can't be interrupted once started, but there can be no denying the power of a well-written macro function. It certainly helps people overcome much of the monotony of gaming, especially in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, where players usually use a specific pattern of moves and abilities with each confrontation. Real-time strategy (RTS) gamers often use macros to help speed up base building, since players usually put up the exact same order of structures 99% of the time at the start of the game. But when hitting a key and watching my avatar literally play itself, I wondered, "When does having a useful tool end and the cheating begins?"

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.