No Bones About It: Cheat to Win
By Michael David Sims
You cheating bastard! That's right, I know what you've been up to. Don't deny it; don't insult my intelligence by trying. You know how I know you've cheated? Because I've been down that road more times than I'd like to count. Sometimes I've been straight up with people, and say, "Yeah. I cheat, but it's no big deal." While at other times I've been known to hide it, embarrassed of what people might think. But you know what, cheating has become such an integral part of video games nowadays — be it codes, unlockable Easter Eggs, or the GameShark — that no on bats an eye anymore. There used to be a day when games were about skill and healthy competition, but it seems times have changed — as they tend to do.
For me it all started with the infamous Konami Code — up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, start (or select, start for a two-player game). I had heard vague rumors about a Minus/Negative World (we called it the Negative Zone) in Super Mario Bros. as well as the ability to gain seemingly infinite lives in Level 3-2, but it wasn't until Contra kicked my ass that a friend told me about the Konami Code. From then on I was hooked.
In the years since I've beaten hundreds of games, some by skill (all of the Nintendo Mega Man titles, Ico, Top Spin) and some by cheating (Grand Theft Auto III, The Mark of Kri, Metal Gear Solid). As all cheaters do, I rationalized my actions with two trains of thought:
01. The game was too hard for what it was, and could only be won by cheating.
02. The developers added cheats, so why not take advantage of them? (Never mind that most so-called cheats are put into games by developers for testing purposes, and never removed.)
Truth be told, I never once felt remorseful or cheated (no pun intended) by, well, cheating. Some, in fact, were quite fun. Such as altering the Command & Conquer: Red Alert rules.ini file so that all my men were equipped with unbelievably long-range rockets or flamethrowers, tanks became rolling teslas, and I could order a never-ending barrage of airstrikes or drop a nuke on anyone at any time. So many possibilities!
Some might ask, Where's the sense of accomplishment in that? And to them I say, "Who cares, as long as I'm having fun." It's not like I'm hurting anyone, or cheating another person out of a win.
Then I found Literati, Yahoo!'s online Scrabble-like game.
People make the mistake of thinking that, just because I'm a writer, I have a considerable vocabulary and can spell. To them I say, "Thesauruses and dictionaries were invented for a reason." Because I have neither of the above, I cringe when someone suggests playing Scrabble and fumble for an excuse to play a card or no-spelling-required board game.
So why then, if I can't spell or have trouble thinking up synonyms, would I ever want to play Literati? Two reasons:
01. To pass the time.
02. Playing said game could help me broaden by verbal horizons.
As expected, I lost my first few games, but that was cool with me. Winning wasn't important, it was about seeing how well I could do. And though I did fairly well, despite the loss, I wanted to do better. So I played again and again, constantly upping my score by making sure to drop that 5-point Z on a Triple Letter or Triple Word space.
Then, quite by accident, I learned of a downloadable Literati cheat — one that scans the board along with your tiles, and tells you were to place them for maximum points. At first I blew it off, thinking, Who would cheat at this game? A few days later, however, I downloaded it for kicks — Just to test it out, I told myself.
Easy to use and install, and my opponent was none the wiser. Within three turns I topped 125 points, and, as I quickly approached 200, toned it down so as not to make my opponent think I had an advantage. (With such an impossible lead, I only turned to the program when in a bind.) Of course I won, and was praised with a "gg," but it felt cheap. Before my opponent left the room, I wanted to confess my sins and play another game — an unaided game. But I bit my virtual tongue, and frowned at my tainted victory.
Never had I ever cheated for a win against another person in anything — not card or board games, mini golf, or gaming. (The computer, however, is another story.) So this was new ground I was breaking, and must admit that I didn't like the lay of the land. Despite that, I used it several more times. One of which I played without ever looking at the board or my tiles — I let the program do it all for me as I read a comic book. And though I won 399 to 166, I wondered, What was the point? Where was the sportsmanship?
The simple, yet hard to swallow, answer is that there was no point or sportsmanship. I cheated to win because I didn't want to try my best — I apparently didn't want to try at all.
With the program's 7-day free trial over, I ended my affair with Literati. Now that I knew a cheat was out there and used it, I doubt I could ever play the game again without felling the tug to seek the cheat out once more for another download. I doubt I could ever play again having had my inadequacies exposed, either. As I admitted here, I knew going in what my limitations were, but the cheat forced me to face them head on and it was startling to see that I couldn't make ALIGNED or DINGLE out of D-G-N-I-L-A-E, and instead would have used those letters to spell DING, DINE, or, worse yet, LIE.
In a seemingly unrelated note, I'm currently playing Ninja Gaiden — of which there are no cheats, and, much like Contra did when I was a child, it's kicking my ass seven shades of black and blue — and though it's nearly impossible to beat, I'm finding myself a better gamer for trying (and trying and trying and trying and trying and trying and trying) a level over (and over and over and over and over and over and over) again sans cheats. My skills are improving and my patience is growing, as is my desire to win without any shortcuts.
Early I noted that some people might ask, Where's the sense of accomplishment in [cheating to win]? At the time I answered, "Who cares, as long as I'm having fun." But now, having written this, I see I accomplished nothing, and all I did was cheat myself out of hundreds hours of potentially satisfying gameplay.
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Let it be known that I did not use this cheat program in rated or tournament games. All were unrated and untimed, and altered no one's overall ranking/score. And I offer my apologies and thanks to those who lost to me for the sake of this column.
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