A "brief history" of cheating at video games

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/18/a-brief-history-of-cheatin.html


I was always fascinated by POKEs back then, as seen in Popular Computing Weekly or the other mags, and amazed at the people and techniques that came up with them (I guess they used disassemblers, but never thought it through much beyond that).

Sometimes I’d just issue speculative POKEs at random, or write a little loop that would whizz through a range of memory sticking 255s or zeros in there.

Occasionally, this would even yield results :slight_smile:


Sadly oath/yaoo/aol now obnoxiouly routes all their sites via guce.advertising.com, which gets blocked by my adblocker. And it feels waaay to shady to unblock.

So no more OATH sites for me. Which sadly includes engadget.

p.s. I wonder if there’s a way

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Back in the day, we cheated at Qix using an HP 64000 with a 6809 in-circuit emulator to change the values. Probably overkill…

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This reminded me of a long forgotten game on the TRS-80 we had as a kid.

It was a trading game set in SE Asia several hundred years ago (can’t remember the exact time), but there was this one minigame that constantly kicked my butt. You’d have to fight off pirate ships, and as you got more successful the pirates would get stronger and stronger until you couldn’t really fight them off. Unless you hit the break key then typed ‘GOTO 9000’. Then, magically, the battle is skipped. 8 yo me felt like such a hacker

Wish I could remember the name of the game.

EDIT: Thank you Google, found the game. Taipan!


I love cheating at video games. That something I love about in browser idle games written in javascript. You can just open up the developer window and execute whatever code you want. I wrote a bot to place sandcastle builder for me at one point. That was huge fun.

I think we have this societal idea of the “cheater” as a person who is trying to unfairly get some advantage. But when you are playing a game on your own computer with nothing but the play of the game as a reward, there is no advantage to be gained other than having fun, and it’s fun to not just play the game, but to play with the game.


There were a couple of games that contained “cheats” which called the whole process into question.

The original Secret of Monkey Island had a cheat that declared you the winner, gave you all the points (that didn’t exist in the main game) and dropped you out of the game, leaving you to ponder the futility of missing the game’s ending just to “win”

A more insidious anti-cheat cheat was in the original Prince of Persia. Here, you could use a cheat to skip levels, but at such a time penalty, the game was unwinnable.


They totally skipped the 80’s and early 90’s computer games (finally mentioned them by bringing up Quake, a mid-90’s game). We used to hack our save files using hex editors all the time back then. It was great fun to get in and mess around with the file and see what you could do.


I spent a fair amount of time with the first Game Genie, self hacking Nintendo games. It was like a game within the game. Die, pause, see which variables changed, tweak, resume, see what happens.

I miss that.

On the Atari 2600 in the early ’80s, a friend and I learned that we could futz the code in the “Pinball” game, by fiddling with the power switch. Doing that we were able to control the “ball” (square, really) and pretty much do whatever we wanted. We would compete to see who could get the highest score possible before losing their ball, while the other person did whatever they could do distract the player.

I’m looking at the page using Brave and don’t see an ad at all.

I agree completely. I usually don’t start cheating in single player games until I’m bored with the game as it is. Or unless I’m completely stuck. As for multi-player games, I don’t play them except locally, and I don’t cheat unless we are all cheating.

What I enjoy is the puzzle of it; can I make this game do what I want it to do?


I love hearing people trying to make others feel guilty for playing games the way they like. “You’re only cheating yourself,” they say. Mm hmm, that’s nice, bye bye now.


Hurray, Brave is fantastic, switched a while back and am loving it. Think your link is broken though? I’m getting better results with brave.com.

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Thanks. I fixed it.

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There was a chip I bought for the Xbox. It would let you transfer games straight to the hard drive and them play them without the disk. It’d also do the same for video and you could move files from the computer to the xbox.
It was actually pretty useful for the time period.

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The best ever was when, at the old-skool arcade, some employee would accidentally leave the coin collector box unlocked…uh…wait! Sorry, that’s a different kinda cheating.


It’s a tracking page. You don’t see it, it just sets cookies I think. Only when you have a (good) adblocker you notice the shenanigans. engadget.com just redirects to that page, unless the cookie is already set. It’s inescapable no matter which browser you use.


The Xbox mod chip!
Yes. Had that. Had my friend soldier the tricky point. But really revolutionary for the time…saving the game to the “hard drive?” Crazy. Don’t know if trying to go online with one will still brick your Xbox or not. I think media X menu went legit and was used/bought by MS.

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