Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cheat Codes

I stumbled upon this article at the USA TODAY website through my MY YAHOO! page and was interested. Look at the commercial for AXE body spray all over this Rainbow Six in Las Vegas game.

"'It's really dumbed-down gamers — it doesn't make them think as much," McMullen said. "People cheat because they can — because there's an option that makes their lives easier.'"

Now I can see this. Granted, I don't play a lot of new video games. We do have a Gamecube but I don't use it much anymore, ever since I got my Madden 2004 and 2002 kick over and done with. We still have Super Nintendo, and now we have Atari 2600 and Intellivision again too. I like the older games anyway.

I really liked DOOM and DOOM II when I had my first desktop computer PC. I loved the first-person shooter. It was so novel. Of course, I remember having the shareware version of WOLFENSTEIN. After a while though, somebody told me about cheat codes. Somebody let the cat out of the bag about DOOM II's code that makes you invulnerable. I hooked myself into using it whenever I wanted, to get out jams or just for fun in the game. This was the mid-90s though and cheat codes were sort of new. Oh, sure there were ones for Nintendo where you had to do some elaborate LEFT-RIGHT-FIRE-LEFT-LEFT thing before the opeing sequence to the game and you retrieved more lives, like on METAL GEAR I remember playing with Geselle. Somehow, it made it less fun. Sure, you could beat it, but we went through it together for the first time in one sitting. What fun is that?

Morgan, my twelve-year-old, was playing DONKEY KONG on the Atari 2600 for the first time the other day. She was so frustrated when she got Mario all the way to the top level only to get hit by one last barrel before saving the Princess. I don't think she liked the idea that she had to be perfect to get to the top and not be hit once.

So I ended up getting bored with DOOM after probably a whole year's infatuation. I still have a CD-ROM of 666 bonus levels. Now, bonus levels are ok. Cheats aren't. Wish I had never heard of those cheats.

Sometimes, I have had to find a walkthru or two on the internet. Some of those Zelda games are just way too confusing and difficult without a little help for when you get stuck. I remember the first LEGEND OF ZELDA and know that I never would have found some of those hidden levels without a walkthru, or somebody telling me exactly where they were.

I think some of these cheat codes are just way too easy. Informally polling some of my students this year, many will tell me that they use the cheat codes FIRST, walk through the game, and then go back to get stuff they missed. I fail to see the fun, but then again, I did the same thing for DOOM and DOOM II.

Now, some of these cheat codes give you commercials. They are cleverly disguised, but they are still commercials. From the article: "Incongruously, while patrolling a neon-decorated side street in the video game Rainbow Six Vegas, you spot a jar of body wash. You spray the container with bullets, and voila! A 60-second video of whimsical bloopers pops up, and billboard advertisements of scantily clad women hawk Unilever's Axe shower gel: Score with Axe." It sounds cool to a gamer, like getting a free little video. However, you just worked for a commercial. I think extra levels are cool, like the really hidden ones on DOOM II that look like WOLFENSTEIN levels, but a commercial?

More and more commercials. We won't escape. The old tv show Max Headroom had it right when the ads will be shown in three second "blip-verts" so they can fit more in.

Years ago, I remember when the networks like NBC and CBS and FOX started those little company symbols in the lower right hand of the screen during the shows and the football games? You know those, like branding their content now all the time. When those started, I told my dad that they would start using those for ads soon, so they could show the Nike or Coca-Cola logo while the game was playing. Sure enough, that has started. They can do much more with it now too, like advertising for other tv shows on the network, and I get pretty pissed off at the annoying ones on USA network. TNT uses 'em too.

I'm just talking here. It's not new. Ads will find their ways in to whatever people are doing. People start driving? Billboards? Watch tv? Sponsored tv shows. Net surf? Pop-up ads and banners (that I don't know who in the world clicks on these spam email--who the hell buys stuff from these unsolicited emails that makes it so lucrative that the spammers keep doing it? But I digress.) Since video games are a $7 billion industry now, they will wind up there too.

(Although imagine what the world could do with $7 billion and the hours that are used playing video games...)

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