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A love-letter to video game cheats: the coward’s charter

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A

A love-letter to video game cheats: the coward’s charter
20 February 2018

I had a Sega Game Gear when I was a young buck, and the first game I got on it was Jurassic Park, because dinosaurs are the cat’s pyjamas. Shame then, that they are also terrifying, and as such, I was unable to make it past the second level. It was too stressful, too scary, too much like not fun, so this short dalliance with video games was not to last. Purchasing Sonic the Hedgehog did nothing to suggest that I was simply experiencing an unwarranted, solitary objection to prehistoric beasts, as I also refused to play past the second level on that. Too scared of the Eggman.

As such, my father forced himself to complete both games, because he’d paid actual money for the infernal device, and someone had to get their money’s worth. I, the ungrateful, lily-livered baby, had moved on - gaming was not for me, it seemed.

Until I got a PC many years later, anyway. For it was at this point I discovered that it was possible to play almost any game from the perspective of a cur, dishonestly making your way through the levels unscathed, safe, without fear. You could cheat. You could tap away at the keyboard, and suddenly you couldn’t die. You had all the weapons. You were invisible. You had, erm, a massive head.

How had I not seen this before? Gone was the quitting invertebrate I once was; now I was the all-powerful, inventory-stocked superhuman - I was finally able to enjoy gaming without the constant fear of imminent death greasing up my palms to a level entirely unconducive to gripping onto anything plastic. I now understood what all the fuss was about.

But don’t get your back up - wipe that spit off your screen - because I’m allowed to use cheats if I want. I’m not hurting anyone, and there’s reasoning here:

I am a scaredy-cat baby

Look, the first time I ever played Half-Life, the exact second that the very first monster appeared, I immediately launched from my bed and turned off the Playstation 2 at the wall with a sharp, dog-bothering screech. I was one second from hurling it through my bedroom window and locking myself in the attic for a year.

I mean, I love horror movies, like really love them, but stick a sodding controller in my hands and make me play through anything remotely scary, and the parts of my body where skin meets become wetter than a newt’s handshake. Gimme a few sweet cheats though, and maybe I’ll be able to get a bit further along, just without the constant underlying threat that I might soil the left corner of the room at any given moment.

So let me shove god-mode on for a bit and enjoy the game - I don’t care if I’m cheating - I’m still having fun. And that’s literally the point of playing a game: me, the big baby, going goo-goo gaa-gaa, big helmet on, the scary monsters not allowed to hurt me, just having a nice play on the putey game. Leave me alone.

If you could refrain from rushing me, that would be nice and I’d like it

A time limit on anything stresses me out to a degree entirely detrimental to my heart and/or my blood pressure. I do not require constant prodding, I do not desire a metal poker held over an open flame until it throbs red, and then jammed up my arse when I’m slacking. It puts me on edge, and any enjoyment I may have had the capacity to express, is unceremoniously sapped from my being.

How is anyone supposed to enjoy anything with a time limit on it? Constantly counting down, never stopping, ticking along to my inevitable death, because I couldn’t reach a stupid checkpoint or something else entirely arbitrary and insulting.

I played the Carmageddon games almost entirely without cheats, but putting a cork on that godforsaken timer was my first port of call every time. Not having that little digital twerp sitting up there and tapping its nails on my forehead, enabled me to relax my neck and enjoy the game. Piss off, clock, if that is your real name

I get dangerously stressed and have the capacity to explode into fits of rage when faced with a repetitive or difficult virtual challenge 

I am a relatively calm man - not many people have ever seen me lose it, throw the proverbial ‘strop’. However, there is a select group of triggers that will send me flying into a veiny, neck-tensed full-body hemorrhage, and they are: wires, drawers, packaging, technology and computer game enemies

As such, if there’s a particular enemy or obstacle in a game that I find intensely annoying (the archers in any Dynasty Warriors game, the honey badgers in Far Cry 4, any of the wankers in Super Mario Bros) then I will flip in the face of them. 

I will be revealed as the entirely unstable human that I truly am, as I shout offensive obscenities at the ceiling until my eyes go completely white. You know the ones - where they start as a recognisable swear word, but mid-way through transform into a full-on T-rex scream: squeezing the controller until it cracks while bellowing “You cccuuuuuaaAAARRRRRRHHHHHHHHH!!!!” at a cartoon turtle. That kind of carry-on. 

Dab my face with a little bit of cheat ointment though, and I am calm once again, safe around others, not a fire hazard.

I appreciate a good story, but hate ‘threat’

One of my favourite games of the past few years was Firewatch - a game without any real, immediate threat, and a distinct lack of enemies. Not that it didn’t scare the absolute hind off me, but you know, it wasn’t hair-trigger stuff - no screaming, basically.

Thing is, most games do involve a never-ending horde of suckers tryna whack you, and sometimes, I don’t choose to deal with it. I want to enjoy the story, I want to follow the game through - a bit like watching a movie - but I don’t want the constant threat, the bubbling menace under the surface, preventing me from relaxing or enjoying myself.

As such, I’m cheating, and it’s letting me follow the adventure and properly get involved without constantly shrieking or elbowing my sippy cup of milk off my high-chair every time anything on screen moves. It’s nice to be a real boy, not a perennially on-edge deer, exploding in a cloud of fear every ten seconds.

I want to experience the full game, but do not necessarily posses the required skill to do this

If I’m not very good at video games (which I’m not), but I still want to experience the full game and truly take in everything, then sometimes cheats are the only way. I want to see all the special moves that my character can do, I want to see all the fancy weapons they can have, I want the tank, give me the tank, I want the fucking tank right now the tank the tank THE TANK.

There are also often parts of a game that can only be accessed by using cheats. Like, you could play the entire game without any help like the martyr that you are, but you could easily be missing out on huge chunks of juicy content, just because you’re a straight-edge snore-fest. As such, I’m afraid to reveal: you’re going to have to pummel in a forbidden code sooner or later, or stuff is going to pass you by.

For example, you can hack and slash your way through the whole of Diablo II, unlock everything, beat everyone, really shaft the whole map, but you’d never have the pleasure of exploding a big herd of cows on the secret bovine level. Why? Because you explicitly need to enter a cheat to get there. Don’t worry about detention, Cuthbert, and live a little, you two-shoed, melting do-gooding prig.

I applaud the work of everyone involved in the game, and want to fully enjoy all their input. I love each and every one of those clever bastards

I don’t really know what the following anecdote says about me as a person, but I’ve revealed worse about myself on the internet, so: when playing the extremely violent FPS Soldier of Fortune and its sequel as a teenager, I would put the ‘notarget’ cheat on, meaning that all the enemies would stand still and be unable to see me.

I would do this because the game had a very sophisticated gore engine which meant you could blow off individual bits of a person in excruciating detail. Thing was, when they were running about and everyone was trying to kill you, you didn’t really get to appreciate all of the detail that was put into this disgusting feature.

But have a load of gormless automatons stand there motionless while you meticulously destroy individual parts of their body with a shotgun and revel in the lurid design work on display, and you can! A weird thing to do, worrying even, but maybe I’m simply waging a solo crusade against the neglect that video game artists experience on a day to day basis. Ever think of that, you ungrateful horse? Ever think of all the cage-fed game designers huddled together in a thankless coop, sweating blood into an important part of a game that you selfishly deem inconsequential? What about them? I care about them and want to romance them all.

I like a good joke as much as the next man

I know this: you have played Goldeneye on the N64 with the big head mode cheat activated at least once. You have done this, because people with big heads are funny. Easter Island is funny, Gordon Ramsay is funny, your dad is funny (because he’s got a big head) - big heads are good and a laugh, and you’re only going to get that in Goldeneye if you’re cheating.

Dumb rubbish like this is often hidden in games, and really, it’s incorrect to even call them ‘cheats’. Often they don’t have any bearing on how you play the game - they’re just a childish laugh given to you for free, a tiny gift of mirth from the devs direct to you and your diaphragm. Play as a stick of tofu in Resident Evil 2! Become a washing machine in Banjo Kazooie! Fight with brooms in Lego Star Wars: The Video Game! Actually manage to complete a game without rushing to the toilet every ten minutes! How hilarious!

Cheats are fun and secret, like being a spy in the war

When you are a secret service agent, you do stuff in codes, don’t you? It’s all very hush-hush and cloak-and-dagger, and that’s exactly what it’s like with video game cheats. I remember printing off a giant list of video game cheats from the internet - it was my Bible, my secret safe-cracker. I was Alan Turing, and I was breaking into these high-security games and stealing their secrets. 

And if you had a cheat cartridge, then by golly, you were a computer hacker possessing of a skill only Anonymous would be able to rival. I had the Xploder, a magical block that you inserted into your Playstation 2 and ‘hacked’ into whatever game was in the console - it made it possible to cheat on uncheatable games, like a true charlatan. A cool computer hacker leaning back on your swivel chair and spinning around with your hands clasped across your chest.

Either that, or a wizard, because you can get yersel fuh if you think I can explain how one of those things works.

I’m not hurting anybody, but myself (the best person to hurt)

Look, if you start cheating on multiplayer games (like paying for aimbots - software that helps you shoot on target), then yes, you are a slug, and you do not deserve to play, but when you’re simply indulging your own I-am-only-going-to-wear-my-boxers-and-eat-crisps-all-day-in-bed personal whims, then where’s the casualty? 

It’s difficult to cheat online nowadays - Microsoft can brand you with a ‘cheater’ label on their leader-boards if you cheat on Xbox games - but there are still ways around it. Don’t seek them out though, you slime-bug, because then you’re actively cheating other people, especially when money is involved. Confine your dishonesty to your own stinky private quarters, and you can do what you want, guilt-free. The only thing you’re damaging is your proclivity for winning - so prepare for a rude awakening whence you leave your hovel and the sun hits your eyes - things are different in the real world, and cheating doesn’t always get you what you want.

Trust me - last time I had an appraisal in my boss’s office and started jumping, crouching, sidestepping left and right then punching and kicking the air to collect all the promotions, I collected all the sacks instead.

Still, at least my massive head was funny.

(Images: iStock)