Control-Alt-Hack: Can You Teach Hacking with a Card Game?

The question of the game: Do you have what it takes to be an ethical hacker? Can you step into the shoes of a professional paid to outsmart supposedly locked-down systems?

The game "Control-Alt-Hack" isn't targeting computer professionals; it is designed to appeal to an audience aged 14 to 30 and change their perception of computer security. The scenario puts players into a the shoes of an employee of Hackers Inc., which gets paid for hacking into their clients' systems. The challenges they face have different levels of difficulty and seriousness.

The game, which provides a game time of about an hour and includes dice, game cards, credit tokens and money tokens, requires "some knowledge of computer science," but not necessarily of computer security. We went out of our way to incorporate humor," said co-creator Tamara Denning, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering. "We wanted it to be based in reality, but more importantly we want it to be fun for the players." The educational aspects is not the key aspect of the game, but it's deemed to be a side benefit.

Perhaps it is just me, but I wonder if teenagers today would really want to play a hacker game with cards? Sure, the idea is to provide the broadest access to the game content, but an electronic version or an iPod/Android app may have been the more interesting variant of teaching hacking ethics. In the end, to be interested in hacking would require a student to already have used and possibly own an electronic device. Those who couldn't care less about smartphones, tablets and perhaps even PCs may not be interested in hacking anyway.


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  • kniped
    Sounds sweet!
  • g00fysmiley
    i'd buy it :)
  • jhansonxi
    Reminds me of "Hacker" by Steve Jackson Games which was set in the BBS era:

    There is also the video game Uplink but it is more cinematic than low-level hacking:

    Another computer game, Endgame: Singularity, is about survival as an AI on a network: