What choice did I have? I had to cheat.
I had just entered college on a hefty scholarship stipulating the maintenance of a perfect 4.0 GPA. I also had a part-time job as a tutor that surprisingly brought in some phat cash. The job combined with the scholarship meant that, for the first time in my life, I could buy all the games and consoles I wanted. But it left me with the most important thing I couldn't buy: time, or at least time enough to play all my beloved games. Between the classes, the work and the study sessions, gaming became a hot commodity; euphoria in its limited timeslot.
With all this time spent doing "serious" stuff, I had games piling up. Good games, nearly a dozen or so, untouched since they were purchased. Begging to be played, goading me to pick up the controller, starving for attention like a girl whose feelings are hurt because I promised I'd call her and take her out on the weekend only to leave her waiting for the phone to ring. Fellow scholars might feel the same mixture of joy and trepidation that comes with the fall semester, when so many games hit for the holiday season and so much money is spent on so many titles with so little time to actually play them. It's never fun to buy a game and not finish it, but the constant barrage of midterms, final exams and term papers make this all too common.
This is when I became a cheat device junkie. The GameShark, Action Replay and Code Breaker were my way of cheating time. They liberated me from mindlessly grinding levels in RPGs, backtracking for hours to gain missed items and aimlessly scouring game worlds for various artifacts through tedious fetch quests. Take Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, an otherwise fun game that made collecting map sections, heart pieces and bomb expansions a time consuming chore. These tasks were like being made to write out 20 pages from a textbook. Would it make me more familiar with the material (i.e. the game world)? Sure. Would it be fun? Not for me, especially when I could take a minute to punch in a random code through a cheat device and save myself hours of time. I couldn't deny the appeal of such convenience.
I Never Did Know How to Play Fair
This penchant for cheating was hardly a newfound personal phenomenon. I had been cheating for years, albeit for a considerably different reason.
Unlike my hectic years at college, as a young gamer in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras there was no rush to finish games. Heck, I might only have a handful of games to last me an entire year. No, there was an entirely different impulse that brought about cheating. Take, for instance, my sixth grade fall term, where the first two levels of Battletoads would be my constant after school preoccupation. Literally, levels one and two, every afternoon, the entire fall. I'd see level three once in a while if I was lucky, but getting past that was seemingly impossible.
There was no denying that some games simply required a superhuman effort to finish. Take, for instance, the wicked enemy placement and numerous pits that litter most levels of the Ninja Gaiden series. How about the relentless onslaught of enemies that bombard players in literally every level of Ghosts 'n Goblins, where death means you have to restart the entire level? Or consider the seventh level of Castlevania III that combines all of the aforementioned perils into one smorgasbord of self-esteem-crushing peril. Then there is Kid Icarus' killer level design, Mega Man's instant spike death and the one-hit-death syndrome in every old school shmup.
One device forever changed the way I would play games (and save me from having to replace smashed controllers): the Game Genie. In the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, when game difficulty was brutal and cheap, the Game Genie was the ultimate ace in the hole. With it, I could tap every last bit of gameplay out of any game.