What “cheating” even means and why it’s considered bad is almost impossible for video games to define. For me as a 90’s kid, it meant using the item duplication bug to get 99 Master Balls Pokemon Red, or tracking down the mysterious MissingNo. and capture it with one of my unlimited Master Balls. Sure, they made me stronger in the game, but they were more about finding the mystery than refueling.
There was a time when using an Action Replay cheat cartridge to save your progress was considered cheating. Well, that’s just a fundamental feature of games. Even today, some people argue that save scumming is rude Some developers have started to accept it as a feature
The argument over whether a gameplay element is a cheat or a feature can be traced back to early arcade culture. Debates have raged for decades about whether tipping a pinball machine is fair or unfair. On the one hand, other players could always see you tipping over, so even though you got more points, you really didn’t fool anyone. But on the flip side, every time you nudged a board to keep your ball from falling off, you didn’t pay another quarter for a fresh start. The arcade owner was allegedly cheated out of money.
Once players realized they could lead a machine to victory, it became a widespread practice – resulting in damaged machines. Pinball wizards threw and shook and dropped the boards, leaving arcade owners not only missing out on revenue but also on the hook for looted property.
Pinball manufacturers responded by adding preventive measures: analogous elements that would lock the pinball machine or reset the score if a machine was shaken too hard. And while the anti-tilt technology was destined to Break Cheaters, it also basically introduced a new mechanic, one with high risk but high reward. Using tilt has become an ability. But some purists still consider using it at all to cheat because it is not “in the spirit of challenge”.
Watch the video above to learn more about how video game cheating has evolved over the years, from harmless bug hunting to the drama of legal battles.