What's more important, the data or the jazz? Sure, sure, "Information should be free" and all that—but anyone can set information free. The jazz is in
how you do it,
what you do it
to, and in
almost getting caught without
getting caught. The data is ones and zeroes. Life is the jazz.
As opposed to the malicious Cracker
who uses his computer skills for profit and mayhem, the Playful Hacker
normally wants nothing more than to explore new territory on the Net and learn new things. Sometimes, he plays harmless pranks which can cause clueless authority figures to confuse him with his dark counterpart. Even when his actions are not strictly legal, though, his intentions and presence are almost always benign—even heroic. This is what "hacker" used to mean, before mass media mutated it
When a Playful Hacker
and a Cracker
collide on the Net, it's always the Playful Hacker
whom authorities pursue first, a plot complication which puts additional pressure on the Playful Hacker to track down the Cracker
, the true culprit. When the final face-off comes, though, it's going to be the Playful Hacker versus the The Cracker
at high noon at the 0K
Corral with virtual six-guns
The Playful Hacker
usually owns a Magical Computer
, which allows him or her
to do all manner of things impossible to normal computers and users, especially when engaging in Rapid-Fire Typing
. (See Hollywood Hacking
See also: Everything Is Online
, It's a Small Net After All
, Omniscient Database
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Anime & Manga
- Ed from Cowboy Bebop, currently pictured above. Ed creates animal-VR viruses in order to discover information about bounties for the Bebop crew that is being kept secret from the general public. Ed's child-like behavior means she never seems to consider trying to give them money more directly.
- Michael from Witch Hunter Robin.
- Shirase from Battle Programmer Shirase.
- Amy from Burst Angel.
- Matt Jeevas from Death Note is often depicted as this in the fandom due to his Chaotic Neutral hacking in the main series.
- Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh!. He could also fall under The Cracker (he certainly never does this for fun), but, technically, the few times we see him hacking, he's helping out the good guys.
- His younger brother Mokuba is this as well.
- The whole premise of Bloody Monday.
- Chisame from Mahou Sensei Negima! falls under this when she's not being the Meta Girl. Eventually, her hacking skills literally become magical when she gains magical girl powers.
- The Laughing Man, from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
- Aoi Kyougoku from Imadoki, especially with the elevator.
- Christina Sierra from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Hilde Schbeiker from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing were hinted to be these, but we didn't get to see many results. Though we do see Hilde getting some info for Duo which he uses to find Quatre and contact him.
- Takeshi Katori and Youko Sahara, the main characters of Video Warrior Laserion.
- Aramusha from Mythic Quest.
- Helba from Dot Hack. She is considered a criminal due to the fact that hacking is a capital crime after Pluto's kiss, but does it entirely for fun and to protect the online game The World.
- Russia is mentioned in the 2010 Bloodbath and Fantasia 2 as "tinkering" with his computer.
- ...then he's countered by another playful hacker, Estonia.
- Ran Musen the genius programmer from R-15.
- Lynn Lambretta in Bodacious Space Pirates. She was arrested for it when she was in middle school. In high school, she uses her leet skills to foil a pirate attack.
- Kazari Uiharu in A Certain Scientific Railgun. In the hacker underground, she goes by the pseudonym "Goalkeeper", and is highly respected.
- Kululu from Sgt. Frog. He could drain all information from the internet and single-handedly take over earth, but he seems more interested in causing mischief and making softcore porn.
- During Lupin III: Dead or Alive, Lupin is able to hack into highly secret government files. As an international thief, he is easily mistaken for The Cracker, however, he doesn't use his computer skills to steal or manipulate people's identity. Lupin's computer skills are used to discover information only.
- Marvel UK introduced Adam Reynolds for one of their Transformers Generation 1 annuals. He was attempting to find out how much money was in a friend's bank account to win a bet, but managed to accidentally hack into the Decepticons' data files. Which is the equivalent of walking to the bank and ending up in the secret military lab in the middle of the ocean.
- An issue of Spider-Man Family had a couple of kids looking for the next big game stumble into one of Stark Industries' files. What they thought was an awesome game turned out to be a program devised by Howard Stark dating back to World War II to protect America from the Nazis. Both Spidey and Iron Man had to destroy the robots that were activated and Tony (as Iron Man) made sure the boys knew they were in trouble.
- Flynn from TRON.
- His son Sam in TRON Legacy is just as computer savvy as his dad, using his skills to annually crack Encom and prank them.
- Riley from National Treasure.
- The entire cast of Sneakers except Mary McDonnell.
- David Lightman, Matthew Broderick's character in the movie WarGames, is a Playful Hacker whose attempts to preview games nearly causes a global nuclear war.
- The entire plot of the movie Hackers—while the protagonists are not wholly benign, they are put in contrast with an extremely evil villain who makes them seem positively helpful in comparison.
- Two of the three heroes of Live Free or Die Hard.
- Mr. Universe from Serenity.
- Attila in Dante 01, who repeatedly teases the head of the prison when he hacks into his computer.
- Aram Fingal (played by Raul Julia) in the Made-for-TV Movie Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, at least initially. He kicks off the film's plot by spending his work hours "scrolling up cinemas" at the office, but once his consciousness is placed in the HX368 supercomputer (long story) his shenanigans end up creating severe weather disasters all over the world, causing billions in property damage to the Evil Corporation that he works for.
- Stanley Jobson in Swordfish. Arguably Deconstructed—he's got the requisite mad skillz and moral compass, but this just means The Government is that much more smug when they catch up with him and punish him for his actions: destroying the FBI Carnivore program was actually praised by enough of the public to force them to parole him away from computers instead of giving him a prison sentence. But, when his alcoholic wife divorces him due to him losing his job (because they won't let him use computers), they have a judge award her with their daughter even after she marries the porn king she works for. The FBI even brags about how his daughter will end up "a fluffer in her new daddy's videos" as punishment for him screwing up their ability to read every American's email.
- Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man. The guy effortlessly hacks a live senate broadcast and several military satellites just to prove a point. He also has a tendency to hack other people's sound systems to play appropriate music for his dramatic entrances.
- Gwendolen from The Last Dragon Chronicles easily fits this trope. Made it all the more awesome because she's an "inanimate" dragon figurine.
- Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother centers around a group of Playful Hackers as they are caught and detained under suspicion of a terrorist attack. Interestingly, The Cracker isn't even represented in the book—it's the Playful Hacker versus the evil Homeland Security.
- Net in Feliks, Net & Nika is a genius hacker and amazing programmer.
- Discworld: Replace 'hacker' with 'cracker' and you have the three guys who make up "The Smoking Gnu" in Going Postal. This being the Discworld, they hack the semaphore-driven "clacks" network, which is a telecommunications system, but without the electricity.
- As of The Science of Discworld II, Hex has also joined the Playful Hacker ranks, as it's hooked up to the semaphore network, has cracked their operations codes, and can slip messages onto the network for free, passing them off as internal signalling. So far as we know, it's only done this to save the UU faculty the expense of sending c-mail messages.
- Cadel Darkkon functions as this in Catherine Jinks' Evil Genius Trilogy. Slightly subverted, as in the first book Cadel was closer to a cracker, given his initially amoral nature—until he met one of the victims of his destructive schemes.
- Most of the members of Genius Squad are playful hackers, though Hamish Primrose would be the best example.
- "Smokin'" Jay Gridley from Tom Clancy's Net Force.
- One of the Hats worn by Bothans is that of the hacker (the others are vicious-backstabbing-politician and spy). The Bothan pilot who makes it into Wraith Squadron is a bit malicious but more or less Playful.
- Ghent, from The Thrawn Trilogy and later the Hand of Thrawn duology, is one of these. He is very good at hacking and does so for the sheer pleasure of it. He also has blue hair.
- Bobby Newmark in the Sprawl Trilogy.
- Wyatt Gillette from Jeffery Deaver's The Blue Nowhere.
- Ravirn. In a world where computer hacking skills and magic have combined, Ravirn definitely fits this trope.
- Snow Crash. Although his business card boasts of his Badass swordsmanship and pizza-delivery skills, Hiro Protagonist's skills as a hacker actually serve him better in the story than his skills with a katana.
- Bob Salmon in the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Blue Box by Kate Orman, who uses his skills to help the Sixth Doctor and Peri take down cracker Sarah Swan.
- Ender in Enders Game, who cracks into the desk system in the Battle School and figures out how to send messages under other student's names while preventing other students from using his name. This is only used for pranks, of course, as Ender is only six years old at the time.
- And the computer system is deliberately set up to allow and encourage this sort of competition/play/hacking.
- In Vernor Vinge's cult-classic novella, "True Names", most of the members of The Cabal fall under both this and The Cracker. They're all out to have fun, and to gain bragging rights, but they're all also criminals. Of course, some of them are more criminal than others, so we do eventually get the classic Playful Hacker vs The Cracker showdown.
- Directly inspired by WarGames, Richie Adler from the short-lived series Whiz Kids. Richie even acknowledges some similarities but says that he, as opposed to Lightman, is a genius. But then, his computer RALF is also a Magical Computer.
- Adam from Doctor Who was a Deconstruction of this character type. His playfulness and extreme intelligence made Rose find him charming and appealing, but as time went on it became apparent his lack of a distinction between a harmless prank and something dangerous and threatening; his worrying ambition; his cowardice; and his dangerous impulses all rather obscured his better traits. He ends up back home with a hole drilled into his forehead which opens whenever anyone snaps their fingers, denied the chance to explore the universe with the Doctor.
- Mac on Veronica Mars: a Playful Hacker with the tendency toward being a bit of a Cracker. She's helpful to Veronica in solving cases, but as Veronica herself operates outside the law for profit, Mac does the same.
- Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds would appear to have been this for a few years before being recruited by the FBI. ("Recruited", very possibly, as in "volunteer, or else".)
- Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Frohike and Langley of The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen would seem to qualify. Byers, for the most part, is their Straight Man.
- Though General Hospital's Spinelli is portrayed as this by friends, he's a lot closer to the Cracker archetype.
- Leverage's Alec Hardison falls under this trope.
- His nemesis Chaos is the villainous variant who's willing to kill to get what he wants.
- Freddie tries to be this in the "iRue the Day" episode of iCarly to counter Cracker Nevel without success.
- Kermit in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
- Caleb from Pretty Little Liars, one of the resident Troubled, but Cute bad boys of Rosewood, is a kindhearted hacker with a Dark and Troubled Past of being The Cracker.
- Charlie Bradbury from Supernatural is one who likes to divert funds from the Republican Party to animal rights groups in her spare time at work. Until she learns what's really going on at Richard Roman Enterprises when she's asked to hack Frank Deveraux's hard drive and has to run and take a new identity—apparently not for the first time.
- B.B. from Metal Gear Ac!d 2. Instead of being childlike, though, he was—literally—a child (age negotiable, but still in Elementary School). He played comic relief throughout the game, culminating in him copying Psychic Powers from a boss and hypnotizing the President of the United States—totally ridiculous, but it worked because it was funny.
- One of Otacon's talents in Metal Gear Solid. He clearly takes great pleasure in hacking into his boss's files during the third act, and cheerfully remarks that the hacker label describes him "pretty well".
- In fact, that's why the FBI fired him.
- In Deus Ex, Silhouette's claim to fame is hacking a Superbowl broadcast and inserting anti-UN propaganda.
- Hammer from Xenosaga is said to have top-notch hacking skills, so much so that he's been head hunted by the top corporations of that 'Verse. The database states that in his youth, he hacked into a criminal database, and that his current employers, the Kukai Foundation, protected him from them.
- The "hacker" from the original System Shock. The story gets kicked off when he gets caught.
- The way Kasumi Goto meets Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 2 is by hacking an advertisement machine to talk to him/her.
Commander Shepard, enter the password and receive a free gift.
Having trouble with Collectors? Try Kasumi's credit agency.
We have the best women for you. Perhaps something cute, petite, and Japanese would be to your liking.
Just enter the password for a fabulous prize worth billions of credits.
- Between the events of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, Cerberus attempts to regain control of the Normandy after Shepard cuts off ties with them. Unshackled EDI's response? Spamming the Cerberus hackers with seven zettabytesnote of porn...from Joker's Porn Stash.
- The crew of the Normandy is joined in Mass Effect 3 by Samantha Traynor, who among other things enjoys strategy games and manages to impress EDI with her ability to sift through data to track a Cerberus shuttle.
- Shinji Naruse, a childish and Tsundere high school student in Lux-Pain is a gifted hacker who manages to break into the files of the main character's secret organization... because he can. He ends up facing the Cool and Unusual Punishment of having doctored (and dirty) photos of him posted on the internet by said organization.
- Yukabacera from Iji is apparently one, according to his hidden character pages on Daniel Remar's official site. He'll hack one of the station terminals in the room just to code a video game for other people's enjoyment. (This game can actually be played in Sector 6, the sector where Yukabacera is hiding)
- TRON 2.0: Jet Bradley is as bad as his Honorary Uncle (see the film section). His father is definitely not thrilled.
- You in Uplink, if you so choose. Hack someone's academic record and give him nonsense degrees! Change their status from "Single" to "Married" or even to "Deceased" for no particular reason. Hack into the bank and steal exactly one credit just because you can.
- Bentley of the Sly Cooper series is the team's tech expert and can hack practically any computer they need him to. He's also technically The Cracker as he's part of a gang of thieves, albeit a largely heroic gang.
- Isis and probably Alice from Hack N Slash have the attitude and means down, except they're hacking the fabric of reality instead of just computers.
- Jack from Gunnerkrigg Court has made a hobby of hacking his dorm's security system so he can sneak out and explore the Court after-hours.
- Yuri from Spacetrawler. She can open or lock any door on the ship, and she's already read a number of files that the captain doesn't want anyone to see.
- Vauxhall from A Tale Of Fiction fits the bill. He seems to know more about the tyrannical DUF than almost anybody else from his hacking activities and works against them, but otherwise is a harmless and funny (if porn-addicted) guy.
- Sollux Captor and Alpha Roxy Lalonde from Homestuck. Sollux is probably a better example of the trope—he once managed to initiate contact from Terezi to Doc Scratch. Who doesn't have an account on the chat client. And uses a TYPEWRITER. AND LIVES ON A MOON.
- Hatchuling from Tower of God, a cheerful fellow who can take over your Lighthouse like it's nothing.
- Zaboo occasionally ventures into this territory in The Guild.
- Several of them in the Chaos Timeline.
- Freddie from Behind The Veil fits pretty well, despite being born a wolf. Mike Hoffman also has shades of this.
- Mysterious Mr. M of LIS_DEAD can infiltrate deep into a secret organization, barely escape by the skin of his wits, and code a nice little Tetris minigame when he gets home, snarking all the while.
- Many computer geeks feel themselves to be exactly this. This flavor of hacker refer to themselves as "White Hats" (at least, those who just look for exploitations and inform the authors of the software). Word of advice—don't screw with government pages. It seems any sort of hacker does time after vandalizing a government page.
- The trick is to vandalize some other government's page than your own. (Just kidding, never do anything like that—honest!)
- The meaning of "Hack".
- A popular April Fool's Day joke on websites is to alter the front page to make it look like the site has fallen victim to internet vandals. Fark is (apparently) particularly vulnerable to guinea pigs, or, as they call themselves, TEH PIGZ.
- Though it did not involve computers, the Max Headroom broadcast hijacker still applies. The incident occurred in 1987 when a guy dressed like Max Headroom was able to get into the signals of WGN and PBS and broadcast his surreal video.
- A hacker called NeoN exposed a Russian company's propagation of the fake antivirus program MS Antivirus and posted their earnings from the fraudulent program. The company's name? Bakasoftware.
- Lulz Security/Antisec members consider themselves to be these, as evidenced by their snarky, meme-laden press releases.
- The NSA has their own department of white hat hackers that constantly test their own systems. And do some other stuff.
- It is becoming increasingly common for corporations to do that. This is called penetration testing.
- M.I.T. has a long tradition of "hacks" dating back long before computers were available, with their own website dedicated to tracking them, as well as at least five books—one of which is published by the university's museum press.
- Despite all the good many real life playful hackers do, for the most part it's Deconstructed. Many hackers' idea of fun is spreading viruses, crashing websites, and causing other sorts of mayhem for their own entertainment.