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A Time to Destroy: To Hell with your rules, I'm cheating

9:00 AM on 12.24.2008

Josh Tolentino

Random Asian Contributor


[Editor's note: unangbangkay talks about cheating for his A Time to Destroy Monthly Musing piece. -- CTZ]

When it comes time for us gamers to make with the destruction, we do it within the games we play. We smash the skulls and shells of innocent Goombas and Koopa Troopas, bring nameless terrorists to justice in unnamed Middle Eastern countries, and crush enemy nations under the weight of superbly micromanaged armies.

What happens, then, when we pick up one bent tin can too many as we hike across an irradiated post-nuclear landscape? A number rises by one (or two, if you happened to pick up a Nuka-Cola truck instead) and our virtual spine breaks, shattering our knees and making every step agonizingly slow. Brought low by what once contained some Pork n’ Beans, we cross the threshold from enjoyment to annoyance.

Worry not, though. We've a savior in these dark moments. With its help we can carry as many damned bent tin cans as we please, shrug off all assaults from feral ghouls, and Hell, even fly to the tallest heights of Tenpenny Tower. Our savior goes by many names, often dependent on the platform, but colloquially, it is called cheating.

But am I not just destroying the game I'm playing? What’s the point of my even playing a game if I've ruined all the challenge through my nefarious cheating?

To that I ask this: what's the point of even playing a game when I'm not having any fun? That’s right. Cheating is fun, especially when it means I don’t have to put up with the stuff in a game that I’m not having fun with.

From the debug console to the Konami Code, the +5 Trainer to the savegame editor, cheating is by and large a player's rebellion against the constraints of the game system. Put more crudely, cheats break the rules. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You might think that this is an immature justification born from cheater's guilt. But do we not play games to have fun? What do we do when the game itself is getting in the way of that fun? Do we just put up with it and soldier on? Complain on a forum?

I don’t think so. I'd actually argue that it's MORE mature to cheat away annoyances to enjoy the parts of the game we DO like. Rejecting frustration doesn't equate to rejecting everything that comes with it. The immature thing to do is to assume that it’s better to accept every bit of bullshit because "it’s the way the game was meant to be played", when we have effective ways of eliminating said bullshit.



What if the fun's in the challenge? Where's the fun in a shmup wherein bullets couldn't hurt you? True enough, but remember that there's challenge and there's frustration. Confronting and overcoming challenges is fun. Otherwise it's just frustrating bullshit. Part of the fun is in learning from mistakes, but where's the learning in a long loading screen between death and a checkpoint, when all we're going to do is attempt the challenge again? Why not just cut out the middleman and let a nice lady whisk us away from doom to try again, no game over or somber music needed?

For a developer, the "challenge of challenge" is to make a game challenging but not difficult. Hardcore gamers are gluttons for punishment. For whatever reason, we tend to think that our ability to just put up with crappy or un-fun design decisions (un-fun to us, at least) shows we're better. In reality, it just makes us suckers. That's an attitude I'd gladly destroy. I wonder what the console code for that is. Maybe "player.setidiocy = 0"?

Mind you, multiplayer is an ENTIRELY different matter.

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