Game cheats have been a staple since video games first made their debut on consoles and PCs. While some of them are blatantly unfair, others can give players an advantage over the computer or their opponents. For example, a code that allows players to shoot weapons in burst fire can create an imbalance within the game.
Sometimes a game’s dev team will add cheats as part of the development process, while others are found by hackers and coders. Typically, they’ll decompile the game and find the codes through the million lines of code. Then there are the hacks that come from third-party software or hardware, like the famous Multiface for the ZX Spectrum or Datel’s range of Action Replay devices for NES, Super NES, Game Boy and Game Gear consoles. These cheating systems work by accessing the program memory and modifying a value before or during the game’s boot-up.
Some cheats are created by gamers themselves, as in the case of a code that let players skip levels in the Sonic the Hedgehog series (hold down A and press up, down, left, right, A, B and start). More often, though, they’re discovered by developers themselves to save time on testing and debugging. The ABACABB code in Mortal Kombat, for instance, was simply a reference to the band Genesis.
Cheating in one-player games isn’t a big deal, but as gaming has evolved into online multiplayer and the global professional esports industry (or “gaming as a sport”), it’s become a much more contentious issue. With huge sums of money on the line, alterations to game play aren’t welcome, and developers are incentivized to write controllable environments that can’t be exploited.
That’s not to say that cheating isn’t still happening, but it does tend to be confined to certain parts of the industry. A recent survey by Irdeto established that 33% of gamers admitted that other players’ cheating negatively impacted their multiplayer gaming experience.
It’s a tricky situation as even the most innocent-seeming cheats can have negative effects. For example, boosting and stat-padding are both ways for gamers to artificially boost their win rates and rankings while giving themselves an unfair advantage over honest competitors. Coin farms, which allow players to accumulate large amounts of in-game currency while only spending a small amount of real money, are another common method for cheaters to gain an advantage. Thankfully, there are steps being taken to make the gaming world a fairer place for all players. And with a little bit of imagination, game developers can even take this a step further by including a few cheats as Easter Eggs.