The ‘Rosebud’ Money Cheat Code In The Sims Is A Citizen Kane Reference

The ‘Rosebud’ Money Cheat Code In The Sims Is A Citizen Kane Reference
Image: Reddit

Something strange and wonderful happened on the internet this week: Rotten Tomatoes adjusted the film score of Citizen Kane down to 99% based on historical reviews, and Paddington 2 officially became the best reviewed movie of all time. I wrote about this miraculous phenomenon for Gizmodo, and in the process I realised a very fun gaming fact: that Citizen Kane plays an important part in The Sims.

For kids growing up in the early 2000s, The Sims was the game to play. It was fun, accessible and for some lucky pizza fiends, it was free via a Pizza Hut deal.

While the internet was still rare when the game released, many kids had access to the world wide web via public libraries or the sole school computer — meaning if you needed any “help” with the game, it was never far away. Sure, some kids liked to play through The Sims in the typical fashion: having your Sim get a job, raise a family and build their wealth. But for everyone who wanted a shortcut to fame and glory, there was one magical phrase: rosebud.

For every time a player typed “rosebud” into the cheat window, they gained another $1,000 simoleons. If they added “;!” to the code, they’d get an extra $1,000, with the effect stackable for more profit.

But while kids likely thought it was just an innocent phrase, it’s actually a reference to a key moment in Citizen Kane.

The iconic film opens on the death of Charles Foster Kane, a rich businessman living in a vast palazzo. As he dies, he utters the word “rosebud” and a crystal snow globe falls from his hand and smashes on the ground. What “rosebud” means and how it relates to Kane’s life is central to the story of Citizen Kane as an intrepid reporter attempts to decipher the code.

After a desperate search, the reporter is unable to find the meaning, concluding: “I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, a missing piece.” At the closing of the film, the audience discovers it’s the name of his childhood sled and a representative of his last happy, innocent moments — but the reporter never solves the puzzle.

So while kids were frantically copy-pasting “rosebud” into The Sims, what they were really doing was pursuing the same empty wealth that plagued the life of Charles Foster Kane. For all his money, the only thing he really valued was his childhood memories — proving just how hollow the pursuit of money over happiness really is.

Ironically, when using this code in The Sims, players may find their enjoyment of the game lessened. If you can purchase everything you want from the beginning of the game, then where’s the fun in playing? For some, it may become a hollow, empty experience — just like the life of the titular Citizen Kane. “Rosebud” is as much a warning as it is a real cheat.

It’s an Easter egg loaded with meaning, and an important reference that likely sailed over the heads of most kids playing the game.

So as it turns out, The Sims is a much deeper game than you’d think.

Comments

  • It’s funny because around that era, all the ‘cool kids’ games were including pop culture references in their cheat codes.

    There’s classic Star Trek references from Warcraft like, “It is a good day to die” (invincible units), “on screen” (removes fog of war), and “make it so” (accelerated/instant building), or Highlander’s “there can be only one” (in Warcraft 1 gave units invincibility and high attack, in WC2 it straight completed the game). Starcraft let you quote aliens, “Game Over Man” to lose the campaign instead. “Show me the money,” also in Starcraft and referencing Jerry Maguire does much what you’d expect.

    Many of the cheat codes were pretty cool in those days. Not just movie references, but also meta commentary. For example, the cheat code ‘operation cwal’ in Starcraft is a nod to the fan group that called itself the same thing, CWAL in this case meaning ‘can’t wait any longer’. (Starcraft development took like… 7 years or something, so yeah… fans got impatient, in an era of sequels that came out literally the next year.) That particular easter egg code speeds up building and unit production. Sick reference. 🙂

    Doom’s cheat codes were interseting, in that many of them start with ID and were followed by dev test codes, like IDMYPOS provides coordinates for your position, but some were more blue, like ‘IDKFA’ gave you all weapons and ammo so you could… KFA. (Kill fucking anything?)

    I miss cheat codes. They kinda died out when it turned out that every publisher wanted to make their game online/multiplayer-friendly, tie in to achievements that couldn’t/shouldn’t be cheated to get, or worst of all: they wanted to charge real money for the same advantages that cheat codes used to confer.

    Still, it’s fun to read over amusing old codes that devs used as their own little community in-jokes.

      • A little digging to remember some more cheats shows pages like https://starcraft.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_single_player_cheats for wikis which include not only the list of codes, but also what the codes are references to. There’s movie quotes, references to previous games in the series, even historical events!

        Ahhh, memories. Man, there’s some solid video gaming history there, in examining cheat codes through the ages… For a while there, thinking 90s-00s, pretty much every game had some.

    • I think internet culture would have eventually ruined the idea anyway. It only takes one person figuring out that the infinite ammo cheat dctst stands for don’t come to school tomorrow, or that the number one and publishers would never trust developers to name their own cheats again.
      Compressed references are such a huge part of how we communicate now that we can say a hell of a lot in less than 10 characters. There’s a million variations on acab and maga that sound harmless but will send half the playerbase into a blind rage as soon as it’s explained to them.

      Then you’ve also got the unfortunate problem of community references tying into communities and members that are much larger and higher profile than they used to be. You can’t reference the community because it’ll probably get big enough from the reference that it grows into something new and unstable. The guys having a laugh about the dev time suddenly get overrun by r/murderallwomen and you’re stuck at your desk trying to figure out how to explain yourself without making things look worse.

      It was great while it lasted but I just don’t see it existing in a world with so much money on the table.

    • IDKFA stood for (allegedly) “ID Keys Firearms Armor”

      I like to pretend it was “I’ll Damn-well Kill Fucking Anything!”

  • I’m not sure what it was supposed to mean, but the original code for §1000 was ‘klapaucius’. I’m guessing it was just some simspeak word but when they introduced rosebud when the Livin’ Large I was so glad to not have to spell out klapaucius and on anyone any more

    • The only reference to ‘klapaucius’ I found online was from a 1965 Polish short story collection called ‘The Cyberiad’ and honestly, not sure if that’s the connection haha. I’m sure it’s something fun and obscure.

      • Wow good spotting 😀
        On further investigation in one of the stories Klapaucius was a ‘constructor’ robot who could make pretty much anything at will. So it does kinda fit the idea of getting money out of thin air.

        Pretty interesting, but even more interesting is that I now have a new book of sci-fi short stories to track down and add to my collection. Thanks Leah!

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