The History of Cheating: From God Mode to Tilting

By SgtDigglesworth, 3 years ago
People cheat. No matter how you care to perceive it, most, if not all of us have cheated in some way or another. From leaning over to smell the girl in front of you only to sneak a peek at the braniac’s page next to her, or claiming that you were: "Stupidly drunk and I thought your twin-sister was you." People from all shades of life’s dark and treacherous shadows have indulged in the subtle art of cheating. If you say you have never cheated, you probably just cheated on the answer to the statements above.

In earlier forms, like the Commodore 64, the Apple II and other vintage forms of PC gaming, gamers could hit the F1 key until their heart was content with games such as SimCity, or enter in codes to alter the game’s program for unlimited resources and so forth. These codes were actually implemented into gaming by the developers and programmers themselves for "Play Testing" purposes to help aide testers with the rigourous chore of bumping into walls, trying weapons against bosses to check the many facets of damage, and well, to make things go smoother and a lot quicker.

Gamers began to "Poke Around" looking for what are called "POKES" or codes that allowed for a gamer to enhance their experience by possibly removing the difficulty by implementing unlimited ammo, level skips or infinite health codes. During this time in the industry it was not frowned upon as it wasn't a crucial element of gaming and it really only allowed a choice. This choice spawned numerous forms of cheating, from The Game Genie, cheat codes in various magazines and walkthrough guides that gave you the advantage of knowing where to go and the most advantageous way to play the game.

Now, through the curious heart of man, gamers have developed a keen sense for "finding" these codes and using them to alter the course of the game and gain a superior advantage to easily thwart all opposition. Such is the case in DOOM when you enter the codes for "God Mode" and "Unlimited Ammo".

The question at heart is does this count as cheating or is it really just a matter of someone having fun and playing the game the way they want to play?

Some of us grew up with arcades and the likes of Double Dragon, a multiplicity of pinball tables, and Galaga. Within these walls of bleeps, bloops and the smell of nerd sweat and sweet candy, the process to gain an advantage arose.

Running through the arcade like a tiny-dancing Canadian banshee and aiming at all of the high-scores was little Diggs. Did I obtain them? No, but I did develop the ability to "Tilt". For those that don't really know what I am referring to, “Tilt” was something gamers did while playing pinball to save their ball from hitting the gutter, and giving you a slight advantage. You shake or bump the table to move the ball away from the impending doom and having to spend more quarters. If you did it too often or too hard, the game would suspend itself, lock the flippers and the ball slowly rolled into the sour abyss of doom where they are hand-washed by an imp and thusly returned back into play.

Whether parked in front of the T.V on a SEGA Genesis or a Super Nintendo, the ability to cheat was readily available at your finger tips, and the arcade, yes they still existed, was no different. The ability to manipulate the games at hand was not something out of the norm and was generally accepted as a gamers’ personal practice. Of course some looked upon you with a general disgust as though you just threw a kitten in the oven, but it wasn't like you were at a tournament aiming at a high-score. Instead it was your quarter and you can choose to tilt if you want. Unless you used a quarter on a string trick, but that seemed to only work in theory and movies.

Anyone who owned an NES, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, Game Gear, Game Boy and so forth have probably, at one time in their life had the pleasure of using a Game Genie.

Game Genie


These fun little trinkets were the epitome of codes. Hundreds and in some cases thousands of codes for some of your favourite games. Level skipping, infinite health, ammo, and so on. Attach your cartridge, start up a game and find the applicable codes that you wanted to use.

The Game Genie was not the only source for codes, however. There were game magazines with their cheat sections: GamePro, Nintendo Power, PSM, and Xbox publications all had codes to help gain a sizeable advantage over those pesky levels and bosses. These were what gamers would use just for the sake of not worrying as to whether it was an "honest" way to play, but just to play the game in a super-casual setting and to ultimately (in my case at least) to feel like one bad mamma-jamma that could not be stopped.

Not every developer or gamer in the industry approved of these methods being available. It's like the Hatfields & McCoys of gaming. Some developers didn't like gaming publications like GamePro, Nintendo Power or PC Gamer incorporating cheat sections into their magazines as it depicted faults in the development process, in-game exploits that were included unbeknownst to the "bigwigs" of the publisher or developer and spawned a new age of cheating in gaming.

On the contrary, some developers enjoyed giving gamers the option to implement cheats of various means. They also included "Easter eggs" that gave the gamer not only a laugh, but also a reward by unlocking a new hidden weapon or "secret" that would be unobtainable unless the gamer dug into the true depths of what the game had to offer.

During this period of gaming was it really cheating on a grand scale? Heck no, if you sat at home and put in your lovely Super Mario World and jumped worlds, or used a game guide to help find how to breed a Golden Chocobo in Final Fantasy 7 then that was your own choice. However, not all in the gaming world was filled with simulation, pixelisation, long hours and starvation, nope.

Farming in-game currency, glitching character levels, HP or acquiring 999 items was not something that truly affected the masses of gaming. It should also be known that developers did not have the means to use updates. Instead they would manufacture a re-written copy of the game, much like system manufacturers would create different series of their console to counteract hardware malfunctions.

Was this all really cheating? Did this early form of gaining an advantage spawn an underground movement of gaming that I shall discuss in the next segment of the History of Cheating where gamers took their undying motivation for cheating to the global scale? What side of the fence do you guys choose? Did or do you play games as a 'purist' or is manipulating in-game exploits something that is a personal preference and doesn't affect anyone but the person playing the game?

Let me know what you think about cheating or what memories you may have had in regards to previous generations of gaming.