Leveling Up, Law Breaking, & You:
From Video Games to Violated Laws 

Leveling Up, Law Breaking, & You:
From Video Games to Violated Laws 

Microsoft Takes Legal Action Against Fan-Made Halo Online Mod 'ElDewrito'

Cheating in video games is just lame,
but being lame doesn’t make something a crime…right?!

Hacking and cheating in video games has been a part of the experience for nearly as long as these games have been around. There have been viral incidents of people hacking online games to give them an extra boost.  If you play online games, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced this at some point. While video game cheating may seem annoying but also not a huge deal (after all, it is just a game), the companies that make the games can take these things very seriously. In fact, they have no problem getting law enforcement involved –  especially when there have been threats of violence on their businesses.

Bungie, the creators of games such as Destiny and Halo, recently started a lawsuit against a player that streamed himself cheating in the online game Destiny 2 more than a few times.  The cheater – a man named Luca Leone – did that even though he’d signed a user agreement Bungie makes all the game players agree to before they can begin to play online.

Even though ‘signing a user agreement’ is clicking a box and might not feel like signing a contract, breaking that kind of agreement can have serious consequences. Leone could face huge civil fines for breaking the agreement, as well as different criminal charges for his actions.

Bungie is claiming “serial fraud” for Mr. Leone’s misuse of their software, which means criminal charges could be brought against him.  Fraud is the use of dishonest methods for money or personal gain. Serial fraud just means a type of fraud that one person did many different times. While fraud is a misdemeanor in some local communities, computer hacking and fraud is considered a federal felony.  Since Leone’s fraud occurred so many times and broke federal laws each time it happened, he could be facing up to 10 years in prison and a large number of fines.

The hacker also faces problems with his statements of violence towards Bungie and their property. After they removed him from being able to play Destiny 2 online, Leone threatened to burn down the company’s building on Twitter. He even claimed over a series of tweets that he’d be “able to commit arson” in the Seattle area (where the Bungie headquarters are located). While Leon may have just been saying that as a joke without any intention of burning Bungie’s office down, his joke could cost him dearly.  Mr. Leone’s bad sense of humor may lead to him facing criminal charges for threatening violence and property destruction.

Speech isn’t protected when it threatens direct harm to an individual or group.  Because of what Leone said online, he could be charged with planning to commit arson, on top of all the other charges.

As if the criminal charges weren’t bad enough, Bungie also plans to open a civil suit against Leon.  Bungie plans to sue him for $2,500 for each time that he used cheats in the game, and up to $150,000 for each game that he played (so for example if they prove he cheated in online sessions with other players of Destiny 2 and Halo, Leon would have to pay up to $300,000).

This isn’t the first time that charges have been brought against a video game hacker, and in fact it’s not at all rare. For example, in one case from 2022 a leader of a Nintendo-focused hacking group was sentenced to over three years in prison for a project he led.  In that instance, the hacker had created software to illegally copy Nintendo games so that people could play those games for free.  It’s similar to the charges in the Bungie case because it made it possible to play games or get in-game items without paying for them. The companies were losing out on money because of it, which they never take very well, and they usually don’t just sit by and let it happen.

Hacking in video games may seem like no big deal, but it could open the door to serious charges against you. While it may not seem like theft or fraud in the moment, it still is illegal in the eyes of the law and could lead to incredibly huge fines like we’ve shown. While it may all be in a virtual world, hacking can still easily cause problems in your very real life. 



  1. What is fraud? The use of cheats in an online game can be considered fraud in your state.  Explain why that is, and then list the largest possible consequence if someone faced a single criminal charge in your state’s court for online video game fraud. 
  2. Explain how User Agreements (the boxes you click before you can play an online game or use software or an app) are the same as or different from a contract you would sign in person.  Specifically, explain what legal power you think they have, and why they have or don’t have the same strength as a contract you’d sign in person. 
  3. Explain why you believe criminal charges can or cannot be filed against a user just because that user violates a User Agreement they had accepted.

Be sure to provide full explanations for each of your answers. For more details, you can read the articles this piece was sourced from here:

Contributed by: Ethan Champagne
Edited by: Mike Kamer


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