On Cheaters: Some Thoughts on Trainers, Cheating, Hacking, and Gamer Ethics

Matt Barton's picture

Once a Cheater...: Oh, Pooh...Once a Cheater...: Oh, Pooh...When I was but a whippersnapper, playing bootlegged games on my dad's Commodore Amiga computer, the choice seemed obvious. If I could play the game with a "trainer," I did so. A "trainer" was a little piece of code, inserted into many cracked distributions of games, that allowed you to play through a game with infinite lives, invulnerability, or some other such option that would let you blaze through the game without fear of a premature "game over." I doubt I could have ever beaten games like Turrican and Blood Money without one of these trainers. The games were brutally difficult, and, besides, the appeal of these games (for me, at least) wasn't so much about developing lightning-fast reflexes as savoring the amazing graphics. It was also exhilerating just to deal massive amounts of carnage. The trainers seemed to eliminate the frustration and lower the bar to the point where an average kid could get all the way through some of the most difficult games of the era.

Now that I've reached a somewhat grumpier age, I'm more prone to dismiss all such devices as cheating of the worst sort. Not only are they unfair if you use them against other human players, but they also cheat you--they eliminate the need to really get good at a game and simply hand over the "prize"--i.e., the great graphics and other boons that drive you to win--with minimal effort. Thus, by using a trainer, you're essentially depriving yourself of the true joys associated with gaming; you're unwilling to play by the rules and just steal the trophy. Where's the glory in that? Where's the honor? Nowhere.

I realized that I'd left my "trainer" days behind me when I tried using a character editor to buff up my gameplay in Icewind Dale. I'd foolishly created some pretty handicapped characters, and the only way to really do anything about it was to start over. I'd gotten pretty far into the game before realizing my critical mistake, so I took my, er, friend's advice and decided to cheat. She insisted that using a character editor was a great decision because it let you create amazingly powerful characters and equip them with the very best weapons and armor. Well, it sounded like an ideal solution to me, so I downloaded the editor and souped up my characters.

Heroes III: Wait a minute...How'd that get there???Heroes III: Wait a minute...How'd that get there???However, it wasn't long before I discovered what this "hacking" had done to my game: It'd taken the fun right out of it. Sure, it was gleeful for a few hours, totally demolishing enemies that had hitherto been so agonizingly difficult to conquer. But the trade-off was enormous. Now it didn't matter whether I found gold or not. Now it didn't matter how much experience I gained. It was all besides the point, because I'd already reached the pinnacle by cheating. Indeed, the game got so boring at that point that I grew disgusted (with myself) and quit, only to return to it months later, this time with a resolution NOT to ever cheat again.

That said, I know how tempting it can be. One of my best friends is what I term an "incurable cheater." The first question--and I mean the FIRST question--he always asks about a new game is what the cheat codes are. He spends more time online reading up on these codes and what we might call "cheating strategies" that I don't see how he can have any fun gaming at all. Forget about playing a first-person shooter with him. While you're putzing around with the equivalent of a Red Rider BB gun, he's got a nuclear missile launcher--and even if you could hit him, it wouldn't matter because you wouldn't do any damage (in fact, you might even kill yourself by hitting him!)

Now, I ask you; where is the fun in this?

Another "infamous" case in my own gaming experience came from the game Heroes of Might and Magic III. At this time, we didn't have a LAN, so a group of us (maybe four or five) were all playing "hot seat." We had a more-or-less honor code of not looking at the screen while other players were taking their turn. Besides, there was enough distractions in the form of chatting, watching TV, and the like.

Anyway, one of these guys always managed to "get lucky." Everytime someone was ready to invade him, he'd be ready with an army. It seemed incredible that he was able to move his armies just where needed them so quickly. But, we couldn't figure out how he was doing it. He wasn't watching us take our turns.

Come to find out, he was using a sort of "daisy chain" system. In Heroes (at least at that time), the only way you could move your army was to move your "heroes," which had movement limits. However, if you had enough heroes, you could use them to transport your armies from hero to hero instantly in a long daisy chain. The end result was that he could move his armies wherever we were trying to attack him (and even back again!)

Now, the question we were all asking was this: Was it cheating? My argument was that it clearly was. It didn't make a damn bit of sense logically, and was just an instance of manipulating a little bug or oversight to win. The other side argued that it wasn't, because there was nothing in the rules against it, the game let you do it (without any kind of hacking), and I'd have probably used it too if I'd known about it.

In other words, half of us thought it was despicable, while the other half thought it was brilliant.

Now, I suppose it's foolish to try to accuse someone who loves to cheat as not actually having any fun at all. I suppose some people just love the power and instant gratification that cheating brings them. For me, and others like me, though, it doesn't work that way. I need to experience defeat in order to enjoy success. Indeed, there is nothing more exciting for me than playing a game in which I know that success hangs on a thread--that way, when I do succeed, it seems so much more fulfilling. I came *this* close to losing. It's also great to constantly get defeated by an enemy, only to go back to the drawing board, work up a new strategy, and then whip ass. No cheat code will EVER give me that thrill.

I'll leave you with one last example. In many games, such as Tomb Raider or occasionally even modern first-person shooters, it's possible to situate yourself in just the right way so that an enemy (maybe even a boss) can't reach you. He'll just keep moving towards you, but due to an obstacle (perhaps a corner), he can't get at you. Meanwhile, you keep plugging at his elbow or the like until he's dead. Now, I admit, I've used this technique before to defeat some otherwise hopelessly frustrating battles.

But, by God, I always feel bad about it later. And that's what makes it all right. :-)

What about you? What are your views on cheating?


Joined: 05/19/2006
Online Cheating

I was on Far Cry last night on Xbox Live and found 4 of the 6 I was playing with had cheats turned on. I wrote down the gamer tags and turned them in. Not sure what will happen now, but it made me feel better as they pretty much kicked my a@@. The cheat allowed them to "fly" all around the map when mere mortals had to rely on swimming, running or using a boat.

Same thing happened tonight playing Live Halo2. It sure takes the fun out of online gaming. This was the main reason I stopped playing online FPS's on the PC.

I've used some cheat codes playing some of the PC games in single player mode. One in particular is Age of Empires. Its a tough game that I only play when traveling overseas and was the only way I could beat it. Believe me, I tried everything but it seemed that the PC AI always had the upper hand in building either the cities or forces used to protect it.

Let's see...I used a cheat code on Far Cry for the Xbox as well...but again, only in single-player mode, and to get past the last chapter (which embarrassingly had taken me over a month to complete, prior to the "cheat").

I've also used countless "walkthroughs" to get past certain stages in games, both on Xbox and the PC. I would imagine this would be considered cheating as well.

I guess I need to be locked up!!!

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Cheats in Farcry?

Forcefield58, so those guys where probably running modified versions of Far Cry on modded original xboxes?

-= Mark Vergeer - Armchair Arcade editor =-

Joined: 05/19/2006
Modded Xbox's

Not sure, but if I had to guess I'd say yes. Although I've heard about the "cheats" that you enter in via the controller but not sure if they work on xbox live or not. I used that type when I was playing the single person game, but only to give me infinite ammo and to beat the last boss type. In the xbox live game they were literally flying all over the screen. This is the same type of thing that happens on Halo2, except there most of the ones that high really high kill numbers are using some type of permanent shield that doesn't allow them to die. I know, because I've emptied many a clip into them and it doesn't even phase them.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Yeah, all official cheats

Yeah, all official cheats are disabled on Xbox Live. I'm not sure about any game hacking devices or modded consoles though...

Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[ My collection ]
[ http://www.MythCore.com ]


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