The Mandalorian and Grogu from Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga with the 'Big Heads' Cheat Code
Traveller's Tales/Brick Fanatics

What in Konami’s name happened to cheat codes?

Cheat codes. Here we go, about to expose my age in comparison to the rest of you young whippersnappers. You know, back in my day…

Okay, perhaps that is stretching the joke a little too thin. But it’s likely that the memories I have of them are different, if not stronger. I can vividly remember going to cousins’ houses and looking through their stacks of printouts from another piece of gaming history, ‘Gamefaqs,’ carefully discerning which vehicles or weapons I fancied in Grand Theft Auto, or figuring out how to mine studs and walk around with a ridiculously large head in the Lego Star Wars games.

Eventually, it got to a point where my younger brother and I would return home with a game in the Lego series and promptly look up the cheat codes, spending more time inputting a careful combination of letters and numbers than exploring the worlds of Dexter’s Diner (if you know, you know), or Diagon Alley. It did become overwhelming at times, such as when we switched on all the various detectors and were perplexed by all the blinking arrows. Nevertheless, cheat codes became a comfort that we used to do our best and feel like we had one over on the developers, or just to mess around with baguette lightsabers – I am in French Studies after all.

Cheat codes effectively rob players of this experience, as it means they are on track for the main story faster

But now, cheat codes are a thing of the past. I bought Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga not so long ago, and fell into my old habits – but all I found was a series of codes for Holiday Special characters. While there is something oddly comforting about Darth Vader in a Christmas jumper, it felt somewhat incomplete to not see the usual cheats for studs or detectors.

That is not to say that the cheats are gone – instead, in this particular example, you are encouraged to explore the galaxy in its vastness in search of datacards often hidden in obscure locations, which you can then redeem alongside a significant number of studs to unlock these extras. This leads me nicely onto one of the main reasons why I think cheat codes have vanished. Games are now pursuing a 50-60 hour model, creating these large sandbox worlds that sustain the rich narrative developers wish to construct, which (at least in the case of my favourite franchise, Assassin’s Creed), often encourage exploration and engagement with said world in order to complete the main storyline. See a previous article I wrote about the unsustainable length of video games if you want more, although I have to say my views have now changed. Cheat codes effectively rob players of this experience, as it means they are on track for the main story faster, often missing elements developers wish to stress – with regards to the Skywalker Saga, this is often a series of side quests that take you across the galaxy with different characters and their skillsets.

Secondly, games now have a large in-game purchase culture. Cheat codes have been replaced by starter kits that offer a certain number of gold, materials, or whatever it may be in exchange for real money ­– thus providing a profitable way to ‘cheat’. This is compounded by the fact that most people now buy their games from a digital store (as seen by the creation of the Xbox Series S), and so this culture of online purchase becomes more common and accepted, thus making the jump from buying a game in the store to buying items in said game a lot more palatable.

That is not to say that cheat codes have disappeared completely. The Skywalker Saga is evidence that they have simply been reconfigured to be more profitable and to ensure that audiences ‘buy in’ to the long game culture – see what I did there? Furthermore, if anyone has seen Wreck-It Ralph, they will see that King Candy inputs the Konami Code (perhaps the most famous cheat code) to access the programming of his own game. Indeed, Konami Codes continue to be included in more recent Konami games, albeit as an Easter egg. In the Sims 4, it is possible to input a cheat code to earn 50,000 instant Simoleons – if anyone wants it, meet under the library bridge, wear a red hat, and don’t tell anyone.

As far as I’m concerned, I understand why cheat codes had to fade in this new age of digital gaming, but they are certainly not forgotten by older players. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several sheets of paper to find.


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