Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Odin. Odin Wonders, “Why do cheat codes work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Odin!
It's a typical weekday. You get home and make an after-school snack before you get started on your homework. Fortunately, your teacher took it easy on you today. A few math problems and a half-hour of reading and you're finished well before dinner.
Instead, you turn on the television, grab a controller, and plop down on the couch for some quality time with your favorite video game. Ever since the first video game was invented, video game developers have been making games that excite the senses and challenge the reflexes. Some of them even help you get some exercise!
This new game you've been playing for the past week has really captured your imagination. It immerses you in an alternate universe where you must fight aliens in order to survive to reach the next level. Unfortunately, you seem to have reached the limit of your skills, because you just can't seem to conquer the current level you've been stuck on for several days now.
You give it another try, but after several minutes you're back to the same point: out of ammunition, health low, and still on the same level. Frustrated, you search the Internet for help. You find what you're looking for and, with a precise sequence of button pushes, your ammunition is resupplied, your health is restored, and within minutes you're on the next level.
What did you find online? If you're a gamer, you already know the answer: a cheat code. For non-gamers, cheat codes are passwords or button combinations that can be entered to trigger a particular effect or event within a video game.
For example, a cheat code might replenish the ammunition in a weapon. It could also restore or increase a character's health. It might also change a character into a different character, elevate you to a higher level, or even jump you forward to a later part of the game.
Are cheat codes created by hackers to exploit games? Sometimes that can be the case, but most cheat codes are created by video game developers and placed into games on purpose. Why would they do that?
Originally, cheat codes were tools that helped developers to test the games they were building. For example, a cheat code that jumps you to the end of a game could help developers test the latter parts of a game without needing to play through the entire game first.
Thanks to the Internet, cheat codes can be easily shared with people all over the world the instant they're discovered. But is using cheat codes really cheating? The answer to that question really comes down to the motivation of the player.
If you're playing by yourself and you want to jump to a later part of the game, is there any harm? Maybe not. You're only cheating yourself out of the entire experience of the game. If you're playing against someone competitively, however, and you use cheat codes to gain an unfair advantage, then that's clearly crossing the line into cheating.
Cheat codes aren't as prevalent today as they used to be. Thanks to game consoles connected to the Internet and the regular rollout of game updates, developers can remove loopholes created by cheat codes with a simple game update that you download via your game console.
Video game connoisseurs, however, point to another development that they believe has been a significant factor in the decline of the use of cheat codes: achievements and trophies. These new rewards were developed to incentivize fair play and encourage completion of challenges, particularly in online multiplayer games. Those found to be using cheat codes can be branded with a "cheater" label that taints their online image.