A Week in Gaming 2nd Quest #17: 4/24 – 4/30

This past week I’ve played some Borderlands, some Fallout, some Age of Empires III, and even a little Final Fantasy IV DS. With the exception of taking down the Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution DLC in Borderlands, I haven’t beat a single game this week. I could write about said DLC, but my thoughts are wrapped up in a single sentence: “Amusing plot and excellent final boss, but too short and filled with a lot of unnecessary items to collect.”

So, instead of the usual mini-review of games I beat or completed in the past week, I’m going to give my thoughts on a topic that inspired this post on Twitter. Said topic is the concept of “cheating” in video games, and everything that goes with it.

Despite owning SNES and Genesis GameGenies, I can count the number of times I remember using them on my fingers since I acquired them. Either I was too lazy, didn’t care, or I just wanted to see how you could fool around with a game by using these external devices. It never felt fun or right to use a cheating device for legitimate gameplay, even as a kid, and this echoes with me now. If there’s no tension or threat present to you, there’s no motivation as a result to play the game and you lose interest. Yeah, it’s cool to make yourself invincible just to explore beyond the capabilities of the game, or to do other things of the sort. But when it comes down to it… the fact that you overpowered yourself to such a degree, then claim a proud sense of achievement for beating a game baffles me. My stepdad does this: he’ll either play on easy, or play on hard but give himself the full run of cheats from invincibility to infinite ammo, etc.

As far as actual in-game cheats go, I generally try to avoid them as much as I can. That theme of “legitimacy” seems to fit here, as I like to try and play games without needing to adjust things in any sort of way that would be an “in-game cheat” or otherwise. However, if a game is ridiculously hard and it has in-game cheats? I’m not above using them to help me in some way, so long as they’re just cheats to give me extra lives, continues, or to restart on the last stage I was at once I get a Game Over. Altered Beast is a good example of this, since you only have three lives worth for an entire game, and a Game Over means starting at the beginning. Holding a button/direction then pressing start at the title screen post-Game Over allows you to continue from the stage you died on.

This also goes hand-in-hand with save states. I can understand that older games could be brutal in their difficulty, and were designed as such. But I hold to the ideology that if I’ve managed to completely beat a stage, I shouldn’t have to repeat it over and over because I’ve died due to difficulty and a lack of experience on the stage after it. It becomes tedious repetition designed to inflate the amount of time you play the game and I get sick of playing Stages 1 through 4 just because I can barely make it to 5 and can get no practice on said stage because of this.

Games without continues, or with severe continue limitations, also fall into this category. Altered Beast had no continues, and Dynamite Headdy had its continues removed in the American version. Games this hard are made even harder for ridiculous decisions like no continues. They’re not arcade games so you’re not making money by pumping quarters into your Genesis, so why do we need to keep repeating parts of the game whenever we fail at the next step?  I want to experience the full game, and with the difficulty and just plain masochism of these titles, I’d never be able to unless I slaved for days on them. At that point, though, the fun is gone and I’m bald from ripping out my hair. I enjoy a good challenge, but relying on incredible amounts of memorization and nigh-perfect dexterity and control just to scrape by with a victory isn’t fun for me unless the game gives you an infinite number of retries. This is why, despite its difficulty, Super Meat Boy is good in my eyes. This is also why I’ll never finish a Battletoads game, and why I used save states on so many games in the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

No, it’s not like how you played it back when it came out. I’m “cheating” by all accords to finish the game. But honestly? The games I use in-game cheats and save states on are frustratingly difficult to begin with and I succumb after dozens of attempts the “clean way”. If the game and system offer me these breaths of relief under the guise of “cheats”, then I’ll use ’em to see the end if I’ve exhausted the normal method. I’m not a creature of consistent repetition because the designers made the game brutally hard. I’m a creature who will give it his all, then rely on other methods when the game is just that damn difficult, because I’d like a little resolution and closure to my experience with the title. These are decades-old single-player experiences from an era where games were literally ported from the quarter-chugging arcades to home consoles. If they want to play that way, I’ll give myself a larger amount of quarters than what they provide, and have fun while doing it.

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