At a young age, I remember some video games being terribly frustrating. At that age, video game skills are at their infantile stages as hand-eye coordination and motor skills are still developing. With that, I am not ashamed to admit I had moments I’d scream out “Augh! I am gonna use a cheat code! This boss is so CHEAP!!!” Keep in mind, this was around the 1990’s era so we either hoped for one of two things:
1) The game producer coded in some cheat codes within the game.
2) Someone found a cheat code via a game enhancer product such as Game Genie or Action Replay.
I know my primary reason for doing so (as a kid) in games was I just wanted to see the ending. I didn’t have any family members who liked playing video games, so if I couldn’t beat a game I was just stuck. I couldn’t go “Dad! Can you help me beat Zawell in Dragon Spirit? I can’t predict his bullets!” I’d just hit up the cheats for the level select to hit up Zawell’s Castle and then throw in the 20 lives cheat and just tough it out instead of restarting from level 1 and trying to do the game with 3 lives. I know many readers can empathize with me on games like Contra (NES) where the infamous Konami code became a thing of legend. For the uninitiated: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start for 30 extra lives in the game. Cheat codes were a common thing for the 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit era, and some of the 64-bit and higher era… Around 1995, you had sites with the word “cheat” laced in them in some form or fashion if you wanted to look up cheat codes. But around the late period of the Xbox and latter portion of the PlayStation 2 & GameCube eras, the cheat code was going extinct like the dodo. PC gaming is a whole different story that I will elaborate later.
The Xbox 360 gamer got the marvel of the achievement around 2005 (or so I remember hearing them being spoken about). A few years later for the PlayStation 3 and Steam (PC) fronts came achievements in their respective forms. The achievements were fun and a nice way to refresh the value of a game. They also provided a way of also signaling where you, as a gamer, were within a game with something like “10 pts [Over the Breaking Point] You’re almost done with the game, just one-half to go!” For the casual gamer, the satisfaction of seeing “Achievement/ Trophy Earned” brings a wave of excitement if it is significant. However, the achievement concept isn’t without flaw…
Sometimes there are games that are just covered in simple achievements that don’t take much work. Case in point: The Simpsons Game for Xbox 360 and the “Press Start to Play” achievement (5 pts). That ruins the point of the achievement/trophy. Some games out there are just terrible at this as they will award achievements for the most trivial things. They are supposed to be either flag stones of progress or a hard/unique challenge to nail. A great example of an achievement I am struggling with is in inFamous (PS3). There’s a trophy called “Stunt Master” and it’s for complete mastery of all the “stunts” from the game. There are a total of 21 stunts. At this moment, I am at 16 of 21 total stunts. The game has awarded me an initial stunt trophy and then another for 10 stunts (close to 50% done) which were great! The final trophy in the series is hard because I am stuck on one particular stunt: “Splash and Crash – Hit an enemy with a lightning bolt while in the air and hit them with a Thunder Drop.” This one is challenging from the sheer number of variables… You have to calculate where the enemy is going to move, make sure you hit them with a lightning bolt, and also time the Thunder Drop just perfectly. I can say once I tag that stunt down and try to get the other stunts, I will be feeling quite good for nabbing that trophy.
The other caveat is the matter that sometimes people end up blinded by the chase of the achievements. This can cause people to lose sight of the most important thing about a game, the story. I mean, it’s one thing to have achievements in a game, but it’s another to get overly obsessed about tagging them even if they don’t do much benefit for you while losing out on the essentials of a game. Sadly, there are some obsessive-compulsive achievement hunters that only pursue the achievements only to flaunt off their Gamerscore (Xbox Live) or Trophy Level (PlayStation Network). To those obsessed with getting the achievements the first time around, I do feel sorry for you because you too fail to understand the spirit of the achievement. You’re as much in the same place as those game developers who make super easy achievements just for the sake of.
Cheat codes however do exist in a limited form in the realm of PC gaming today. In one incarnation, they exist as a means to administrate and tinker with a game. Great example is any of Valve’s games (CounterStrike Source, Left 4 Dead series, Team Fortress 2, etc.) as they can allow a server admin to toy with people who cheat on servers. Word to the wise, if you decide to cheat in a versus match with a server admin in Left 4 Dead (2), hell is a safe room full of witches and tanks waiting for you. As far as tinkering, a player could handicap themselves just for fun to see if they could survive a horrid playthough. An example could be trying to play Half Life 1 with just the crowbar as your only weapon and using cheats to make you lose other weapons. The other incarnation that cheats exist on PC is in the form of bots and trainers. Bots are typically for those who either refuse to play with their own manual skills or to troll other players in a multiplayer game. Trainers on the other hand are usually for single player games or to inject hacked items into an RPG to give the player the ability to steam roll through single player or just own others in a Player vs Player online RPG.
While there are still some modern day games that do have cheat codes, such as the new Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game… The concept cheat code is slowly going away. Cheat codes were my way of usually screwing around with a game. I mean, games/sandboxes like gMod for PC allow me to really have some fun as a controlled toy box of sorts with many features that work much like cheats. In rare cases, cheats were a way to speed through a hated game and put it on the hall of shame as quick as possible. I will say I understand why cheat devices like the Action Replay have not seen a modern incarnation for the x360 and PS3 platforms with potential for hacking multiplayer games. I welcome the concept of achievements as long as they do present some concept of milestones or take some good effort to earn. I know it will personally be a sad day when I end up saying something like “I remember when the Konami code was awesome!” and modern day kids will look at me while going “What’s that?”