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Cheating in virtual worlds: transgressive designs for learning

Yasmin B. Kafai (Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Deborah A. Fields (Graduate Researcher, UCLA Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 30 January 2009




This paper aims to present and discuss cheat sites and cheating practices associated with, a virtual world with over 1.7 million registered players aged eight to 16 that includes game and science activities. The goal is to examine how the development of cheats can present learning opportunities for players and designers alike.


The types of cheats were categorized and science content examined in hundreds of cheat sites created for Whyville. The work of a cheat site designer in developing a cheat together with other Whyville players was observed.


It was found that a great variety of cheats are available in educational worlds and that science games that require more than one simple answer also require the development of more sophisticated cheats.


Cheating is a transgressive practice widely accepted in gaming but mostly condemned in schooling. The features of cheating and its associated practices allow us to consider transgressive designs for learning in virtual worlds that offer opportunities for youth to participate in creative and critical media production, to engage in science inquiry, and to raise ethical issues.



Kafai, Y.B. and Fields, D.A. (2009), "Cheating in virtual worlds: transgressive designs for learning", On the Horizon, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 12-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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