Something weird happened the other day. Actually, two weird things happened the other day. The first weird thing was that, for once, there was a really good digital sale for the Xbox One. The cowl not yet removed after having completed the New Game Plus mode for Arkham Knight, I couldn’t dare miss the opportunity to grab Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham at 75% off. There’s almost never any good deals on the Xbox One… The second weird thing was that, when visiting the brick-wrought batcave I stumbled upon the option to actually enter a cheat code. As I stood there, muscles suddenly tense, flashbacks of childhood gaming sailing on by, Kojima standing in front of me, softly saying to me “Remember a time like this, Vahrkalla? What a time we had…”, I expected to feel good that this was in the game, or at least nostalgia for it. I actually felt kinda sad.
What…happened? This is the first optional cheat code system I’ve seen in years, and that really bugs me. Seriously… where have all the cheat codes gone? Even franchise standard cheat codes like the big head mode for Arkham games are being removed from the most recent instalments. GTA V had a cheat code system but using it would prevent game saves, thus essentially dulling the use of them. You never see a Ballad of Gay Tony style of cheats anymore, when, once activated, the effect persisted throughout the rest of your campaign.
And it’s not as if developers merely forgot about them, developers grew up on the influence of cheat-code games, with modern AAA titles being wrought from thousands of people across a conglomeration of different studios, I really doubt that not one person would have at least tried to send the idea to the top for a game like, I don’t know, Arkham Knight. So by process of elimination we can only guess that cheat codes are a kind of developer…taboo?
But not the kind of mysterious, dangerous taboo, like Lord Voldemort. It’s the kind of taboo that’s taboo because it doesn’t fit with modern development standards. Modern development standards show that you can’t implement systems to better or hasten the player’s campaign without monetising them. In other words, anything that isn’t already in the most basic, vanilla part of the £40 game must now be accessed by the customer paying more. First this idea took away skins from players, then extra playable characters, and now it is taking cheat codes. Where before you could enter a code to receive infinite health, buffs, money, armour, we are now being charged up to $99 USD for it in games like Assassin’s Creed Unity.
And that just depresses me. It depresses me for many reasons. Firstly, because when publishers stop looking at us as players and rather as customers, any care to please us as consumers is taken out of the equation. Also, obviously, this depresses me because I really bloody liked cheat codes. But the worst thing about this all, is that the younger generation may go in to games expecting not to see the kind of dev-to-player gratitude and innovation that cheat codes brought. And, well, that’s actually kind of scary.