What Ever Happened to Cheat Codes? [OPINION]

By Mike Andronico , Updated May 26, 2013 08:14 AM EDT
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Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. We all remember our first time entering it, and nothing at the time could compare to the sensation of reaping the benefits of this infamous cheat code in games such as Contra and Gradius.

If you're not sure what we're talking about, this button sequence represents the "Konami Code" a cheat that has transcended Konami games and has since become ingrained into general pop culture. However, if you grew up playing games in the age of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, the concept of "cheat codes" might be completely foreign to you.

Cheat codes have essentially existed as long as video games themselves, as shortcuts were programmed into game software to make things easier for developers. It didn't take long for savvy gamers to find and exploit these blips in the coding, and soon cheat codes became an intentional part of the game meant for players to discover and enjoy. Gaming magazines began dedicating full columns and articles to how to unlock the hidden goodies of a game, and products such as Game Genie and Game Shark were released to help players breeze through their favorite games with a bevy of extra power-ups.

From hidden characters in Street Fighter Alpha to unlimited rail balance in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, using cheat codes and finding the best nuggets a game has hidden within was once brought a special sense of joy. So why do we see far less cheat codes in today's game?

The reason is simple: A couple of big, fat dollar signs.

Fire up any current-gen game, and it should only take you a few seconds to find an option to spend more money on a game you just dropped sixty bucks on. The ever-growing digital marketplaces of Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the general PC world have made downloadable content more popular than ever, which has diminished the motivation for developers to put cheats and easter eggs into their game. Why make players work hard towards finding a hidden costume or character when you can just have them pay $5 for it? Cheat Code Central was once one of the prime destinations for gamers online, and even they chimed in on the decline of cheat codes in favor of paid downloadable content.

At the end of the day, developers need to make money to survive, and it's sometimes understandable why game creators would forgo a cheat code for something that will help them turn a profit. However, that hasn't stopped a few studios from keeping a fun sense of discovery in their games.

The Grand Theft Auto series has always been famous for its outlandish cheat codes that allow instant access to everything from rocket launchers to helicopters, and expect to see the trend continue when Grand Theft Auto V launches later this year. 2011's Mortal Kombat and 2012's NFL Blitz are both reboots of classic Midway franchises, and both games allow players to enter codes for zany character effects right before a match. And for those who miss the aforementioned euphoria of successfully entering the Konami Code, the cheat can still be found in many modern titles such as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Silent Hill Homecoming.

While you may not find yourself digging through Electronic Gaming Monthly for in-game secrets and spending late nights on Cheat Code Central as much as you used to, cheat codes are still an important and beloved facet of gaming in general. It may not compare to their popularity in the 90s, but their presence in today's games proves that unlockable secrets anddownloadable content can play nice together and exist in the same game. Here's to hoping that our favorite developers never forget the magic of pressing "Start" after entering those ever complex sequences of plastic buttons.

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