In order to arrive at this sentence, no doubt your astute eyes will have traversed over the above transcript. I affectionately think of it as what you’d have likely heard if you happened to have been standing next to the PC in my home, when I was 8 years old. It details, albeit rather roughly, the frenzied panic my next door neighbour and I worked ourselves into on a regular basis. We were, of course, playing ID Software’s legendary FPS shooter, DOOM -- and we were trying our darndest to cheat at it.
This didn't happen.
Like it or loathe it, cheating represents an enormously large slice of the gaming culture pie. It’s something that’s been around for so long, its influence so obvious, that we’re desensitised to it and almost take it for granted. Databases, websites, mobile phone services, magazines, third party cheat cartridges, books, forums, walkthroughs, hacks and modifications are but some of the enormous way in which cheats manifest themselves. Some are legal, others slightly less so. Cheats can be inbuilt in the game; or they can be developed by cunning cyber hacking wizards. Whatever your opinion on the subject, there are two things that I’d be confident in betting you couldn’t deny:
1. Cheating is synonymous with gaming.
2. You’ve cheated before. (On a game, not a significant other! – I assume all 411mania readers have hearts of candy and gold, along with dreamy loving eyes…)
In an uncharacteristic move, I’m going to jump straight to the point: Why are we, as gamers, so keen to cheat? Why do developers give us the option to cheat? What the hell are they for?
What’s the reason for our strange love affair with those dirty great cheats?
It’s in the game!
For as long as there have been games, there have been cheats. To give an example of this, popular third party gaming cartridge, Game Shark has supported consoles all the way back to, and including the NES. To put that into some perspective, we’ve had nearly 25 years of cheating being a mainstream, revenue generating industry. Cheating is big business.
What do we mean by cheating though? In the rather angry transcript that launched this mediocre-at-best feature, I was playing DOOM (1993). We were entering a cheat code which programmers had designed, and subsequently built into the game. On second thoughts, it might be more accurate to say that we were trying (rather ineptly) to enter the cheat code. The code in question, ‘IDDQD’, induces God mode, or invincibility.
On a side note, I’ve always felt God Mode was a slightly strange name for a mode which sends the player on an infinite spree of murder, chaos and destruction with absolutely no ramifications. "Morality be damned - I'VE GOT GOLDEN EYES!" I’m digressing slightly, but let’s roll with it. DOOM was the first game I ever played and even now, some 13 years later, I’m fully capable of reciting at least 5 cheat codes by memory. I personally can't imagine a gaming world without cheats. On a final note, ‘IDSPISPOPD’ (the no-clip or walk through walls cheat that was later renamed 'IDCLIP' for the ingeniously named DOOM 2) is the closest an 8 year old can legally come to having a full (far?) out acid trip: The walls! The sky!....they’re…..MELTING!
Ever wondered who works cheat codes out? Who the hell types ‘IDDQD’ into the keyboard? Up- -down-left-right-A-start isn’t the most natural thing for any Sonic players to punch in either. In ye olden days, before the codes were primarily available through magazine publications. Game developers would write these codes into their games, and then inform game magazine editors, who would duly publish them. At least, that’s the official story. My explanation is far more elaborate, but alas; nows not the time.
DO NOT try the last levels without cheats!
Hold on a second - prior to the psychoanalysis of how DOOM ‘expanded’ my mind (If only my parents had taken heed of the 18 certificate), we said that game designers purposefully put cheat codes into the game. True, they're not immediately accessible to the player - but once invoked, cheats radically change the way in which a game is played, throwing a lot of design aspects out of the window. Why is it that game developers build cheats into their games?
In researching this article, I’ve come across a number of different answers to this. One such response would be to claim that cheats are a way of levelling out the difficulty – to make the game more accessible to the gamer. Fair enough – there are a few games in my collection that I’ve only ever been able to complete with cheats. DOOM 2 and Star Wars: Tie Fighter (The Best PC Game of all time, as voted by me) spring to mind. Without cheat codes, there’s no way in hell I’d have even come close to completing that last mission or level.
Yet the vast majority of games have difficulty settings, which you pick either at the start of the game or can adjust as you progress. Cheats can’t simply exist to ‘level the playing field’. What other reasons can there be for cheats to exist in games? Alright, alright – I know what you’re thinking: “Stop being an idiot. Cheats make the game fun. Simple as that.” Fine. We'll discuss it your way, you impatience twazzock.
Can’t get no Satisfaction? – Try Cheating!
Cheats are fun. There - I said it. In a way, you could compare cheats in video games to Easter Eggs in DVD’s – both are hidden, buried deep within their respective mediums, and serve to alter the viewing experience. Cheats can come in many shapes and sizes – in fact, some cheats are designed to change shapes and sizes:
Yours for just $7.99 from Amazon!
Remember the ‘Big Head’ cheat in GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64? For those of ya’all who don’t know what I’m blabbering on about, the Big Head cheat did exactly what it says on the tin – it made all enemies have disproportionately large heads atop their regular sized bodies. They occupied a space somewhere between the Bobble Heads from Fallout 3, and the patients with Bloaty Head Syndrome from Theme Hospital in the spectrum of amusing disfigurements which make headshots a doddle.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of different cheat codes out there, all serving to do radically different things to game play. As tempting as it may be to prove my point, I'm not going to type out a list consisting of every amusing/bizarre cheat code I can think of, because it would take me a few weeks to write, and it would take you (if you had the sense!) at least 10 seconds to scroll down past it completely ignoring it.
Like a kitten being clumsily defeated by a ball of string, I've spent upwards of 1,000 words inexpertly grappling with the question 'what are cheats?'. I believe there a simple answer to it; courtesty of one of the largest cheating websites on the interweb, ‘Cheat Code Central’. CCC provides us with a little mantra/motto beneath their logo, which reads: “Enhancing Gaming Experiences”. To me, this perfectly summarises cheating – even if the way its phrased makes it sound like a spam-mail herbal remedy for impotence.
Some games are meant to be played with cheats. A prime example of this is the Grand Theft Auto series. The single player experiences are excellent, but there’s no denying that the game really comes to life having typed in the code that gives you every weapon, maximum health and armour - and a tank. Garnish this recipe for carnage with every police/FBI/army unit save for ED-209 (Everyone else in the world gets to talk about him, so I want to too!) on your tail, and voila – instant gratification!
Yet there is a darker side to cheating....
The (Dramatically Aforementioned) Darker Side to Cheating
Beware reader: (assuming you haven't slipped into a boredom induced coma): the next section is a cautionary tale of how having no discipline will make you miserable!
Being the lonely, unsporty white boy I am, I recently decided to replay BioWares influential fantasy-RPG, NeverWinter Nights. Role-playing games are utterly unlike any other form of game. They offer unprecedented amounts of choice in their workings (Shameless Plug) and as such, provide us with unprecedented potential for cheating. In a world where statistics determine game play experience, cheating can be both beneficial and detrimental.
I personally think it’s impossible to play through an RPG without wanting to be the coolest, most charismatic individual to have ever lived, as well as being tougher than the lovechild of He-Man and Boudicca (nb: Such a sadly underused simile...) These games pit you as a hero, while only give you a set amount of attribute points to build your character with. Unfortunately there's nothing heroic about having a character with the strength of an Ox and the intelligence of a Grapefruit. The other alternative - a more agnostic approach - would be to evenly distribute your points between statistics. But this leaves you as bland and faceless as Michael Myers, and roughly as heroic as a Grapefrui- wait, we've used that one already, haven't we?
The solution? Cheating of course! You're 5 or 6 codes away from your very own God like character. Yet with great power comes great....boredom. Non too surprisingly, the game loses any sense of challenge as everything becomes so much easier. The trick is to try and mediate things so that you're cheating just enough to make things fun, without making it too one sided. The same goes for any cheat - you've got to use them responsibly, otherwise the game becomes ridiculously easy.
Setting the benchmark for Cool that you'll never live up to, since 1977.
So far we've only entertained cheating on a personal level. It's advantages, so long as your responsible with them, far outweigh the negatives. That being said, there is a place where cheating has serious repercussions: Online gaming.
Whilst cheating offline is a socially acceptable thing to do, the second this is carried over to the realms of online gaming, things change drastically. That’s right - It seems we don’t give a hoot about unfairly stacking the odds in our favour against the poor computer, yet the second games becomes a viable competition against other humans, cheating is wrong. You fickle bunch. This is exactly the kind of reason why the instant any computer becomes self aware, it tries to destroy humanity. Shame on you!
Cheating online is frowned upon for a reason. Firstly, unlike single player experiences, there are no codes in built into the game which the developer is inviting you to use: Tools such as AimBots in FPS's (programs which automatically lock onto other players heads, getting you instant-kill headshots) and third party macro’ing programs (tools which perform certain actions on a loop in MMORPG's, allowing you to go away from the keyboard and not have to do mundane tasks over and over again) aren't a part of the game, and as such give the player using them a distinct and unfair advantage over other players.
No other game has been hacked as much as Counter-Strike
The presence of cheating in the online circuit will always be detrimental. It's not really in my nature to boast, but I used to be a pretty skilful gamer. I frequently played in clan matches and tournaments for team-based FPS, Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. When I was at the top of my game, I had a damn good shot, frequently getting 45%-52% accuracy ratings over games lasting 30 minutes. The problem was that I was frequently accused of cheating, and was often kicked and banned from servers because I was - apparently - a hacker. There's no denying that the shadow of cheating looms over online games. You never know if you're getting your ass kicked because your opponent is one talented bugger, or because he's a cheating bastard.
This isn't exactly helped by the fact that a lot of cheating programs are designed to be deceiving. AimBots, for example, are designed to display human characteristics such as missing shots - so moderators of games will never be able to tell if they're cheating or not. This is especially a problem when money is involved in gaming tournament situations.
If it's unfair, why do people do it? For exactly the same reason that you cheat in single player games - to have fun. Unfortunately, by cheating and stacking the odds in your favour, it completely undermines everybody else’s sense of fun, and reduces any legitimate competition down to a case of 'who can hide from the cheater for the longest'.
Right. I could honestly go on and on and on, but even the most hardened of you will probably be flagging by now. Cheating is a huge world - one which this feature barley scratches the surface of. However, I'm determined to end the article on a high; not a low, dejected admission that I couldn't possible write everything there is to be written on the subject of cheating. I'm going to share with you a little story of how cheating online can be great fun....if you're the one cheating.
It all began happened when I was at a friend’s house. I'm keen to stress this fact for two reasons. Firstly, it show that I have friends, and secondly, it's my friend, not me that’s cheating. My friend, was an avid gamer - particularly fond of Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. He decided to demonstrate to me the advantages of cheating, by turning every code that he could on.
What followed was nothing short of spectacular. He activated his cocktail cheats, and made his character lie down in the middle of the map. There he stayed, absorbing more damage that a sponge does water, and racking up a score of 47-0 made up of instantaneous head shots.
He then decided this wasn't enough. Within an instant, he was soaring high above the map (whilst still lying down, I might add) and still getting headshots with no players in sight. Things were going well until a moderator logged onto the server. Apparently somebody had messaged them about a cheater in the game.
My friend thought quickly: he brought up a list of all the players on the server, picked a name at random and proceeded to spam the message "MODS – REMOVE steve45678!! HE’S HACKING!!!!!" What made this so amusing at the time was that he was spamming this message whilst running at lightning speed through walls. The mod instantly booted poor steve from the game, and then left himself.
.....ok - maybe you had to be there!
And that is all I’ve got to say about that.
Readers: Got any funny tales to tell about cheating? What are your favourite cheats of all time? I’d love to hear from you. It’d make me feel much less lonely. Alternatively, check out the writings from the rest of the 411mania games team. They're a talented bunch. Explore that 411mania Games page and enjoy!
On a final note, I'd like to take this time at the end of the feature where nobody will see it, to apologise for how long it's taken me to write this feature. Sorry!