Note: I wrote this for the cancelled issue 5 of The Luchazine back when that was a thing. It's been sitting in a folder on my computer since then. With Sweep's new blog initiative, this seems like a great time to throw it up. There are a couple of other things I wrote for the Luchazine that never made it into the 'zine that I may throw up at some point, but they're pretty out of date now and largely irrelevant, so I don't know if I should bother. This one is still pretty relevant though. And I am of course going to write some actual new blogs soon, I'm not just going to throw up old shit.
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. There once was a time when pressing those buttons would result in a happy surprise in a huge array of games. Dubbed the Konami code, it remains famous today and is an Easter egg on many websites. Try it now on giantbomb.com (replacing Start with Enter) and you will be whisked away to the Contra page. However within games, cheat codes are a rarity today. Even just 10 years ago they were still somewhat prevalent, although not as common as in the days of the SNES and Genesis. But in recent years the inclusion of cheats have taken a steep nosedive to the point where they are virtually non-existent. What happened? Where did they go?
Gaming has evolved quickly over recent years, and many of the changes lead to cheat codes being less needed. Many people say that games have become easier, which may have lead to cheats being less necessary. Kazuhisa Hashimoto famously included the Konami code in Gradius because he felt the game was too hard for the average player. If games are getting easier, then the need for cheats will be diminishing. But the changing difficulty in games is a lengthy discussion itself so let's leave it for another day.
However certain gameplay elements have most definitely been streamlined, removing many of the frustrations of gaming that cheats used to alleviate. For example, lives systems are a rarity today, negating the need for unlimited lives cheats. Regenerating health removes the need for a health cheat. More frequent checkpoints and save locations make level warp cheats unnecessary.
Another recent trend is the increase in unlockables being obtained via gameplay. Many extras which may have been gained from cheat codes in the past can now be unlocked by various gameplay methods. For example, Army of Two: The 40th Day has a big head mode in which character's heads are humorously enlarged. Rather than entering a code to obtain this, it is unlocked by completing the campaign, and is then activated from a menu.
Downloadable content and microtransactions are other recent additions that have affected cheats. Many downloads that would have been cheats years ago can now be downloaded for a fee. For example, Skate 3 has a downloadable “Time is Money Pack” which unlocks everything in the game that would ordinarily be earned by playing through the career mode. In the past, this would have most likely been accessible via quickly pressing a few buttons on your controller, but now it is a $7 downloadable add-on.
A further reason for the fall of cheats is a modern addition to games that we all know, love and are hopelessly addicted to – achievements. Achievements have become a major part of gaming today and in order to be a somewhat meaningful system, everyone must have a level playing field. If a player could enter a code that would make obtaining the achievements easier, that is unfair on players who are unaware of the code. And while developers could disable the achievements while a cheat is activated, many simply elect to not include cheat codes at all.
Of course, cheat codes aren't completely dead yet. You can still see them in modern games such as Grand Theft Auto 4, Saints Row 2, Scot Pilgrim Vs. The World, Rock Band 2 and more. Long live the cheat code!!!