Cheater pt 1: cheat codes

The act of cheating in games stems from the desire to get away with doing what one knows is against the rules.  While not always malicious, it is always for the player’s advantage through a deception or trick.  In my three part series Cheater, I will be exploring the ways gaming culture has altered the way we think of what constitutes cheating.

Konami code

The Konami Code

With video games the idea of cheating took on a different facet when players found a testing code, unintentionally left in the game Gradius for the NES. The code was initially created for testing purposes due to the challenge the testers faced when attempting to make their way through the difficult game, it gave the player a full set of powerups, essentially supercharging the player from the start of the game. While unintended, the Konami code was soon adopted and used in other titles as a way of providing the player with unlockable game modes or powerups.

Gradius, with the Konami code enabled, the player had access to powerups from the start of the game

Grand Theft Auto

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has long included cheat codes in its games; to give the player ammo or armor, spawn vehicles, change the weather, to incite riots, and even make cars fly.  Despite the belief that these types of cheats would detract from the intended gameplay, GTA‘s cheats have always proven to work with the games instead of against them.

After feeling like the drive from point A to point B was starting to feel like a drag, turning your car into a veritable chitty chitty bang bang, and flying off into the sky felt refreshing. Likewise, after having your fun flying your favorite low rider through the sky like a jet fighter it felt good to tear through the streets with the police in pursuit with the intended driving mechanics.


GTA: San Andreas cheat code for flying cars

With the acceptance of the idea of “cheat” codes as a way of including easter egg content or game modes which alter the game’s systems for an advantage to the player; players now think of cheats as keys to secrets and expanded gameplay.

Have you ever used a cheat code in a game? Did you feel that it expanded your sense of how the game played, or did you feel it cheapened the experience? Do you think more games should include ways to “cheat” or allow the player to access alternate game modes? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to

Play Professor is the blog of ludologist and video game journalist Andrew Mantilla. You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.


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