Ten years ago or so, if you wanted to make a new video game website, there were a few keywords you wanted to put in your main logline. GamePlace! The place for game walkthroughts, cheats and codes! While walkthroughs still exist, though largely in the form of YouTube videos, cheats and codes have gone the way of the dodo. For the most part that is. I’m pretty sure one of the primary reasons I ever used the internet in the first place back in the late ’90s was too look up cheats and codes (using AskJeeves, of course), as it was preferable to waiting for your next issue of Nintendo Power or Gamepro. But now? It’s very rare to see a game with actual codes, and the most prominent one that comes to mind is GTA 5. Don’t believe me? Check out the master list of GTA 5 cheats here. The list lets you spawn a huge number of vehicles and weapons, lets you do fun things like go into “drunk mode,” and then has your classic “ultra-cheats” like max health, armor and ammo. So where have all the cheats gone?
It’s part of the changing landscape of games in two different ways.
First, it’s the rise of online multiplayer. Previously, if you wanted to turn cheats during a multiplayer match of say, Goldeneye, all you had to do was convince your friends. But now? The idea of cheats in online multiplayer is unthinkable by definition. In that mode, cheats are now hacks are rightly punishable by bans for giving some players advantages over another.
But now you also have “integrated” games like the recent Destiny, which blends single and multiplayer together in ways that are unable to be distracted from one another. Even though you can technically play the game by yourself, “cheats” in that game would directly affect the larger gameplay experience for other players.
Even in largely solo games with only a limited multiplayer component, cheats don’t exist because of the core premise of the game. Borderlands, for instance, could easily have a max health/ammo cheat, yet that would destroy the very purpose of the game which is to collect better and better guns and become more powerful.
That’s why cheats can really only exist in worlds like GTA 5 in the modern era, a game which is entirely self-contained single player, where multiplayer is walled off completely. There’s really no reason not to allow for “god mode” style cheats because it’s just the player and the AI, with no one else to consider. And the object of the game is not to “level up” either.
But there’s one more factor into why we don’t have cheats anymore. The fact that cheats are being sold separately as microtransactions in many games, particularly those in the mobile scene.
Where unlocking all levels, items or getting an influx of cash might have been a cheat code before, now those items are wrapped up and packaged for $1 to $10 a piece, depending on the game. What used to be an unlock, game designers realized people would actually pay for. Cheats were always a hot commodity judging by how many gamers wanted to find them on the internet. Now that’s been channeled into an actual revenue stream for an entire industry. Yeah, it sucks, but people are buying, so it’s hard to blame game companies for selling.
Even if GTA 5 is the last bastion of true “cheats,” I’m hoping the concept will still live on well into the future. There has to be way to integrate cheats into other games without upsetting the entire apple cart. But that seems to be an increasingly tough prospect in this day and age.
[Photos via Rockstar and Rare]