I Miss Cheat Codes

I Miss Cheat Codes

I might be showing my age with this one, but I miss cheat codes.

In the old days, discovering cheat codes for your favourite games was like discovering McDonald’s had a secret menu. The earliest instances of cheat codes were the result of developers trying to fast-track certain aspects of testing and debugging. They could make you immune to damage or give you unlimited ammo. Some let you warp to a level of your choice. Some, like Doom‘s IDCLIP/NOCLIP code, taught young players about an aspect of game design — clipping, the act of in-game objects passing through one another, in this case the player character passing through walls. Some, like the Konami Code, were so well known they became pop culture touchstones in their own right.

In the 80s and ’90s, cheats were frequently printed in gaming magazines or collated in cheap books purchasable at your local newsagent (and many of these were not checked before going to print; incorrect codes were often found throughout). In the 2000s, this would give way to an entire cottage industry of cheat code sites (rip Sega Sages).

Discovering cheats was fun! Trying them out was fun! Seeing them work and using them to re-explore a familiar game through a different lens was fun! BSing with your friends about cheats you’d heard about on the internet was fun.

And now it feels like they’re all but gone.

I was idly thinking about this over the weekend (and, funnily enough, saw someone have the same thought on Reddit this morning, jogging my memory). Today, we live in a world so dense with games that require online check-ins to operate that the tactile, push-button cheat code as we knew it has been made all but extinct. Back then, characters mostly had single movesets and a small suite of power-ups to pick from, and cheat codes made them feel inordinately powerful. Today, even in single-player games, power creep has become the default. Player characters ascend skill trees to reach the kind of godhood only cheat codes could grant in the old days. Even among the indies, cheat codes have largely fallen out of favour. Some still include them for fun, but many don’t!

In online games or those that have an online component, I get it. The fewer tools players have to gain an unfair advantage, the better. But in more traditional single-player experiences, surely the humble cheat code still has its place?

Or, and this feels rather more likely, have they simply evolved into accessibility options and now serve a much more noble purpose? I feel like they have. In modern games, some accessibility options grant players power beyond the scope of the normal game to allow a broader range of methods for enjoyment. What are accessibility options if not cheat codes persisting? (I can tell it is time to wrap this piece up because the brain rot is starting to set in.)

Please tell me about your favourite cheat codes in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.

The Cheapest NBN 1000 Plans

Looking to bump up your internet connection and save a few bucks? Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


13 responses to “I Miss Cheat Codes”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *