Cheater pt 2: Shortcuts

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 (part 1), I explore the way gaming culture has altered the way we think of what constitutes cheating. In today’s article I will be discussing the use of shortcuts in games.

Knowledge is a powerful advantage

A shortcut is a route that gets you from point A to point B more efficiently than following the obvious path. It is often a nod to being familiar with the routes and paths of the area.  Using shortcuts is an expression of that knowledge, as an escape, an advantage, or simply as a way to enjoy the road less travelled.

Racing Origins 

Shortcuts are especially valuable when trying to beat someone else from reaching a location first, hence their importance in racing.  Traditionally, the use of shortcuts would be grounds for disqualification in races, however racing games use them as high risk, high reward avenues for the players to explore.

mario-kart-64-shorcute-beach
Mario Kart 64 shortcut
In the above example the player can make their way around the large stone wall following the track, or use a boost to propel themselves off of a narrow jump into a tunnel shortcut. If the player doesn’t have a boost this path is not viable, likewise lining up the kart and timing the jump just right requires skill. If the player fails to make the jump it will bring their kart to a dead stop and cost them precious time in the race. Still, if the player can land the shortcut they can gain an advantage that can earn them a win.

Patrol paths 

mario-patrol-path
Mario speed runs require the use of shortcuts
Shortcuts can also be applied to enemies, understanding where an enemy will patrol and their patterns of behavior can improve how the player gets past them. In Mario, enemy behaviors are studied to allow the player to complete speed runs, playthroughs focused entirely on completing the game in as short an amount of time as possible.

dark-souls-shortcut
Using a shortcut in Dark Souls 2
Games like Dark Souls incorporate shortcuts as a means of allowing the player to bypass difficult enemies in order to explore an area fully.  At the start of a level the player must dive deep into the heart of the enemies to find unique points to save at.  When traveling behind enemy lines the player is in constant danger of losing their progress, thus the game creates locked doors, droppable ladders, and gaps to leap across, that will allow them to connect different points on the map. These shortcuts, if discovered and utilized, allow the player to cleverly circumnavigate the map with ease.

How do you feel about the use of shortcuts in games? Do you or your friends use shortcuts in racing games? Do you feel that it is fair to use them or abstain from using them? 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 playprofessor@gmail.com.

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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