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I started thinking recently about how I can't remember virtually anything taught to me in college, but I have the blood codes for the Genesis versions of Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II permanently etched into my brain (Down up left left A right down and A B A C A B B, in case you were wondering). My entire gaming experience throughout childhood and adolescence involved cheat codes. If my mom was going to the grocery store, I'd bring a spiral notebook and sit down on the floor of the magazine section, jotting down every secret I could find for Vectorman or whatever game I was playing at the time.
In sixth grade, our teacher made a huge deal about this new thing called the "internet" that our computers had access to. I sat down at the PC as he explained what a search engine was, and my first thought wasn't about the internet's possible implications for social purposes, instant news access, shopping, etc. It was "I am typing in 'Earthworm Jim 2 codes' into this box and if it works, this is the greatest invention ever." It worked, and it was the best thing ever. It also meant that calling a 900 line to unlock Smoke in Mortal Kombat 3 was a thing of the past.
Games were awesome on their own merits back then, but it was still fun to punch the Skywalker and Infinite Hammer Bros. Costume codes into Super Mario Bros. 3's Game Genie menu and go nuts. Some were funny (turning Command & Conquer's ore into people by typing in "SOYLENTGREEN"), some were helpful (the Contra code), some were cosmetic (blood in Mortal Kombat), and some were non-existent (the nude code in Tomb Raider). In almost all cases, they extended the replay value of your games and gave you a new way to play them.
At some point the interest in codes dropped off. I don't think it's just me, as you rarely hear people asking about codes or starting websites dedicated to them anymore. One possibility is that the rewards that were previously accessed via a code are now typically unlocked by performing in-game tasks. The first game that I remember doing this well was Goldeneye. Instead of punching in a 16-button sequence to become invisible, you'd have to perform some insane in-game task like beating the Archives on 00 Agent in a little over a minute. Goofier cheats like DK Mode were easier to access, but you'd have to really know the game if you wanted to get to the good stuff. Metal Gear Solid was also from this era, and you wouldn't be getting that infinite-ammo bandanna or stealth camo without first beating the game as it was intended.
The only traditional codes I remember after the 32/64-bit era were those in the PS2 Grand Theft Auto games. Codes for health or decreasing your wanted level were pretty much cheating, but the ones for dropping tanks out of the sky were a ton of fun. Putting in one code that armed every civilian and following it with the code that makes all civilians hate you had hilarious results, and it offered a fun distraction when you were ready for a break.
In the current generation of consoles, codes are a rarity. I loved all the funny cheats Rockstar put into GTA III back in 2001, but it's ten years later and I honestly don't even know if Red Dead Redemption has any. It might be indicative of a shift in how games are made in recent years, with more focus on narrative experiences and balanced online multiplayer than "try to get to the end without dying." I have fond memories of discovering new codes when I was a kid, but I can't say I really miss them in 2011. Like level passwords, 900 hint lines, "notes" sections in instruction manuals, and VHS hype tapes for upcoming games, they're just another element that we don't have any need for anymore.
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My cousin and I (I was eight years his junior) would always put in the Konami Code for Contra, and we'd get all the way to the final boss (remember when that was a really big deal?) and I'd die, and he'd have to soldier on alone. Except once. Just once, we got there and somehow, improbably, I was doing better than he was. The pressure was on. He went down, and it was just me. I don't remember how I did it, but it was probably by closing my eyes and firing random bullets into anything that moved. However it happened, just this once, I finished the game by myself while he chilled in the Nicaraguan morgue next to the piles of dead mercenaries.
It was the most glorious moment of my gaming career to that point. And all thanks to the Konami Code.
Saints Row 2 had some cheats like that, though entering them even once disabled achievements for that save.
I don't have a problem with cheating, per say. My philosophy has always been to muscle through a game a couple of times, then whip out the cheats and have fun. Whether it be trainers, editors, console commands, or just good old built in cheat codes. There have been a couple of games that were nigh on impossible and I had to cheat somehow to beat them, but that's only a couple in my 30+ years of gaming. Cheats are meant to be a fun diversion once you've beaten a game to death.
Good old GTA codes. Some fun times were made with the tank code.
i can remember the gameshark the epitome of cheats in games
I like cheat codes in games.like uncharted 2,I played through it a couple of times and then got all the cheats.invincibility unlimited ammo different costumes.I love those and I played it for a long time.red dead didn't have real cheats it had rip offs.you couldn't have invincibility and unlimited ammo.that's stupid.I also loved resident evil 5 it had unlimited ammo to it's awesome to just kill all the "zombies" without worrying about running out of ammo.I think cheats should be in allot of games,not all but allot more.
A couple weeks back I was playing Black Ops with some of my guy friends, and one of them made a Game Shark reference and it had me rolling. Those were some good days. But I'm sure years from now the industry will start doing without something we cherish today.
I thought I was the only loser who would right down codes from the magazines in grocery stores. (memorable sigh) memories.
I think you are correct in saying that cheat codes are probably just a product of the past (the magazines, VHS tapes, 900 numbers) and also in saying that it has to do with a greater emphasis on story telling and getting through the game as the creators intended it. I think game developers feel that you get a better experience from their games if you experience them the way they foresaw when they got the idea and created the game. They probably have a point, though I thought (and still do think) cheat codes were really fun. I think they still could be enjoyable in games today. It is, technically, up to the gamer if they want to play through the game once without the cheats on or not.
I think it would be cool to see some old cheat codes in the new Mortal Kombat game coming out.
I noticed that we seemed to have traded off the cheats for achievements. Cheats were most useful if you couldnt get past a certain point or if you wanted to have a ton more fun (tanks and flying cars in GTA III) but now we have achievements which are used to prolong the amount of time we spend in games and some in game achievements unlock items much like codes would give you a weapon or car. Some games still come with codes but I rarely look at them because I prefer getting the Platinum on Uncharted 2 for the Marco Polo skin to just pushing random buttons and getting it.
I used to go write down a bunch of codes while at the store too! I was all secret agenty about it lol yup, I miss them cheat codes
Hacks and mods replaced them, Dan. Shame too. Codes were at least made to happen.