Remember cheat codes? They’ve been replaced by microtransactions, but they once stood as a grand pillar against boredom. If you had the internet then there were plenty of websites which had lists upon lists of them, which you’d scribble down onto paper and stick in the case of the game. Or, if you were someone like me, you’d collect lots of those little cheat code books that the gaming magazines handed out. Once I even bought a whole big book of ’em. Think I still have it lying around somewhere.
I was playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 with a friend yesterday, and we didn’t have a save file. This, of course, led to a lack of maps, and it was a few moments before either of us stopped to realise that we could just look up the cheat code to unlock them all. (By the way, have you ever bothered to play the level editor presets? There’s a whole bunch of them. Some of them are pretty good!) It made me stop and realise just what we’ve lost with the lack of cheat codes. I think cheat codes were phased out due to a combination of conflicting with achievement progress, and possibly to open up the way for microtransactions. If you asked me to choose between cheat codes and achievements I’d be conflicted, but the latter can shove right off.
Here’s an example. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you could enter a cheat code to get more money, and of course, you could enter it as many times as you’d like. In Grand Theft Auto V, you can still get plenty of dosh quickly, but this costs you real money. Of course, there are still cheat codes in GTA V, but there’s far less of them and I believe (though I may be wrong) that these were patched in with a later update. You may argue that online multiplayer is a large aspect of GTA V and that cheat codes have no place there, and I agree, but perhaps that shouldn’t restrict single-player gameplay.
And GTA V is one of the only games I can think of since the launch of the last generation of consoles which has cheat codes in the first place. Saints Row: The Third allowed you to buy a DLC which gave you access to cheat codes, but even this was a redundant idea due to endgame abilities far surpassing the need for any cheats, with the character legitimately gaining powers such as invincibility and infinite ammo. (I’m not saying I dislike this as a mechanic, because it was something exciting to work towards, although the novelty did eventually wear thin.)
Well anyway, I suppose I shouldn’t whinge too much. Perhaps cheat codes simply had their time, alongside the importance of high scores and level codes before them. But whilst high scores and level codes were succeeded by achievements and, well, save files, cheat codes seem to have gone the way of the dodo simply because they were a back door which allowed gamers to play with their game instead of feeding it money.