With the arrival of online gambling, massively multiplayer games and services like XBox Live come a much larger audience and a widening demographic scope. These players have helped turn the game industry into a money-making behemoth. As large and popular as this industry has become it has done a surprisingly poor job of addressing the darker side of gaming. Protecting Games attempts to solve this problem by shining a light on piracy, cheating, account theft, privacy, protecting children online and more.
The book is broken into four primary sections with piracy and cheating having the most obvious relevance. The latter two sections address social attacks from griefing to gold farming and finally a "Real World" section that seems to act as a catch-all covering relationships with third parties, real money transactions and even a brief chapter on terrorism.
The sections on piracy and cheating seem to make up the core of the book and carry with it interesting tips, anecdotes and in some cases psuedo-code that help illustrate a solution to the problem at hand. I actually walked away from these chapters feeling a bit depressed in regard to how monumental these security challenges are. It's not that you're left empty handed or unwarned. It's just that you start to feel like you're being attacked from all sides and quite frankly, you probably are. By this point in the book you're ready for a change of pace and chapter 18 (which concludes the section on cheating) comes at the perfect time. Ironically for me, I was hoping for something different than the high score cheat case study which plagues many online Flash games and are of special interest to me. It's only after devouring the chapter on network attacks that made me want to see more in that category.
What was most surprising was how game design can adversely affect security. By tweaking design documents early in the process there are some issues that can simply be mitigated instead of turning into real dollar problems that affect the integrity of the game and potentially turn away paying customers. Perhaps the author would consider changing the subtitle to "A Security Handbook for Game Developers, Designers and Publishers". That being said, I should also mention that although the book is targeted toward those in the industry there's incredibly useful information in this book for gamers and parents as well.
Protecting Games is an excellent security handbook albeit a slightly overwhelming one that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone involved in the process of creating games. It arms us with the knowledge we need to make the right choices while navigating through the process of not only an building an entertaining game but a secure one as well.