In one class we had a very interesting discussion on what constitutes “free choice” when it comes to video games and whether it is even possible for a player to break the designs of a game. I posed a question for the class, “How do we view cheat codes as it relates to “free choice”? There was not much time to fully flesh out this discussion in class but I would like to delve a little deeper into this question here.
The cheat codes I am referring to are cheat codes which are pre-programmed by the game developers. For example, in the game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, if a player enters a series of specified inputs, a “cheat code” will be registered and something will happen to alter gameplay. For example, if a player on PS2 presses UP, DOWN, L1, R1, L1, RIGHT, LEFT, L1, LEFT, then cars will fly. To see the wide breadth of cheat codes in this game, click here.
The cheat codes range from cosmetic alterations, such as making the world change to “night” on demand, to mechanical alterations, such as maxing out shooting abilities, weapon stats, and having infinite ammo and health. These cheat codes, namely the mechanical cheat codes, fundamentally change the game. The player is no longer confined to the original limitations. The player, in effect, is turning the game world upside down. Do we therefore view these cheat codes as subversive gaming?
Or instead, do we view these cheat codes still within the confines of the game because they have been pre-programmed by the creators. The player technically has not broken any of the creators “rules” and has not actually played in a way that was not already intended by the creators. As someone in class stated, in video games, there is no true free choice, as every outcome has already been predetermined or algorithmically determined ahead of time by the game creators. Therefore, unless a player actually alters the coding of the game and modifies it themselves, can we still cal it “subversive gaming” and true free choice?