History of Cheating and Cheat Codes in Video Games

1.7K Flares 1.7K Flares ×

Have you ever wondered why cheating and cheat codes have been such an important part of gaming for so long? Only in the past decade have we seen a lot of interest in cheating – although the motivation behinds those old cheats still lives in in surprising ways. Here’s how cheats first came to be – and why they stayed around.

Codes and Countermeasures

MK Cheat

Cheating during a fighting game? Where’s the skill?

Why did cheat codes first become such a staple in early video games? Did developers want their players to cheat? Actually, those performed a very different, very important service: They allowed the developers to cheat.

The coding and development process, even for the first games, was an endless trial of testing, tweaking, and reviewing that had to be performed largely by hand. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why developers would want a way to, say, skip instantly between levels – or defeat a final boss in a few seconds – or run a level with infinite levels or health. This allowed them to test very specific parameters without wasting time. Even the famous Konami Code was created during a debugging phase to help save time.

Most of these “cheat” codes made it into the final versions of games because they were too much trouble to take out. It wasn’t very long until gamers realized they existed, and just how powerful those codes could be. As the early 1990s progressed, it became clear that there were two ways to beat a game – the traditional way, or by hunting down CSGO cheat codes.

Part of the Machine

Game Consoles

As games changed, so did codes.

For several years in the 1990s, cheats were as much a part of gameplay as…well, the actual gameplay. Many gaming magazines were sold on the strength of their promises to unveil all the latest cheats for new games. Eventually even products entirely devoted to cheating emerged, like the Game Genie cartridge. Developers started having a little fun making cheats a core part of the gaming experience.

But then something started to change – or rather, many things changed. The “cheat” industry started to become competitive and even combative for video game producers, and it became clear that cheats were compromising the quality of games and their experience. Games themselves were getting longer and more complex, and the older generation of cheat-happy developers were replaced by younger gamers who had big ideas and much less time to waste programming back doors. Finally, software had grown much more advanced and using permanent cheats in game testing was no longer necessary. The cheat code industry quickly faded.

Secrets and Selling Points

GTA V

Cheats do still exist – ask any GTA fan.

Of course, cheat codes still exist in games today – just take a look at the latest GTA 5 cheats for those who truly want to go off road. But they have grown more eclectic, and the reasons for using them have changed. The traditional cheat code has been replaced by easter eggs, little secrets for devoted players to find out, often messages directly from developers – things that still add a new experience, but don’t sacrifice gameplay in today’s carefully constructed, often plot-driven games.

There are, of course, more cutthroat reasons for ditching cheat codes: Today’s publishers are focused on tapping revenue streams from DLC, and revealing cheats would undermine potential profits. In fact, some cheats focus on protecting game brands by only “unlocking” on illegal downloads and making gameplay all but impossible. Fortunately, those longing for nostalgia can always download an emulator and pop into God mode for their old games.

Tyler Lacoma

When he isn't enjoying the beautiful Northwest outdoors, you can find Tyler on business and tech sites, writing about the latest news, analyzing trends, and generally making the Internet a more interesting place.

More Posts

1.7K Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Google+ 5 LinkedIn 4 StumbleUpon 1.7K Reddit 0 Pin It Share 2 Buffer 0 1.7K Flares ×
1.7K Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Google+ 5 LinkedIn 4 StumbleUpon 1.7K Reddit 0 Pin It Share 2 Buffer 0 1.7K Flares ×