Everyone deplores cheaters. The word ‘Gameshark’ is always muttered under dark breaths. The idea of getting something without having to work for it irks people.
However, I’m here to sing a different tune. As a kid, when I discovered the joys of the clunky plug-in Gameshark device for the Playstation 1 as a kid, I was thrilled by the countless possibilities. Oh I can finally get that KOTR materia without all that nasty chocobo inbreeding now. Oh 1337 stats and infinite items? Yes please!
And thus began my cruise onto the internets to source for hundreds and hundreds of hexadecimal codes, all those 8001117D etc. which I copied dutifully by hand onto paper and then manually inserted into the device. Yes, through using the Gameshark device, I learnt what the hexadecimal system was in fifth grade, and learnt about the basics of programming, and how tweaking numbers can change values in a game. I learnt that things in a game, such as stats and items, correspond
But strangely, even as I infinite-HP’d my way through Monster Rancher, I didn’t get the satisfaction I thought I would. Oh sure, being able to plough through the games without the fear of dying was thrilling. As Winston Churchill once said, “There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as being shot at and missed” and indeed this exhilaration gripped me initially. I was practically omnipotent, with infinite resources at my disposal.
Yet, after a while, I opted for max HP/MP cheats instead of infinite HP/MP, because the games got too easy. I would look for codes that maxed my life that could be depleted instead of an infinite one. Slowly, I rescinded on the codes I used. Instead of a max all stats cheat, I would perhaps only max just one aspect. Soon after, I stopped using stat altering cheats and went for unlocking exclusive feats (unlockables, hard-to-obtain items etc).
Till today, I don’t really regret that I used a Gameshark to get a Mew in Monster Rancher 2 simply because I didn’t have a ‘Madonna the Immaculate Collection’ CD to spawn it.
…spawns this. True story. Why? I dunno.
The point is, when everything was so easily available through cheating, I began to appreciate the value of effort more. Through being able to easily obtain Arceus and Darkrai on Pokemon Diamond/Pearl made me realize that their availability made them no more precious than a regular Bidoof or Zubat. Thus, to make my Pokemon experience special, I discovered EV training (I wasn’t a very good competitive trainer but going on that journey was interesting) and the Pikachu with the Volt Tackle that I got from the (crappy) Wii Game ‘Pokemon Battle Revolution’ as the first Pokemon I ever EV trained (and Ditto-raped for nature). I still kept all the rare Pokemon I cheated with for collection purposes, as I realize I would probably never be in Japan when promotions reel around, but within this game, residing side-by-side with the ill-gotten Pokemon, were Pokemon I put so much effort and time with. My Diamond cartridge truly felt like a culmination of experience, of learning through the disappointment I got through cheating, the determination I gained about the value of effort and so forth.
Many gamers decry the methods of cheaters, but in the writings of John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’, through a ‘free marketplace of ideas’ where both the good and the bad opinions are allowed to be aired, the good shines in comparison through conflict with the erred and to deprive truth and good that opportunity would be to do people a disservice. Cheaters have the potential to learn the value of effort and hard work through cheating too.
I suppose in real-world situations, it’s not as if the actions of an individual gamer has no social implications, especially in today’s gaming situations, with MMOs on the rise, cheating and bots do impinge on the gaming experience of other people and that’s when things go bad. Nobody wants to play a game with a person who has gold farmed from a bot or a gold farmer and upsets the meta-economy. My cheating history was a mostly cloistered one, since I wasn’t rich enough to play MMOs. Battling online on Pokemon though, can be where the “do no harm” principle flounders sadly like a Magikarp — one does see outrageously hacked “hackmons” while battling, and the ones without a cheating device is usually left disadvantaged.
It seems that the concept of cheating has gained more consequences with the rise of socially-integrating games then. The motif of the Mills ‘Harm principle’ where “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins” becomes challenged more and more as games develop, but it also brought into the discussion some merits of cheating that would have otherwise been overlooked.
Originally written on 27th December 2010 on 1up.com, edited for content and clarity.