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Cheating in video games has existed for almost their entire history. The first cheat codes were put in place for play testing purposes. Playtesters had to rigorously test the mechanics of a game and introduced cheat codes to make this process easier. An early cheat code can be found in Manic Miner, where typing "6031769" (based on Matthew Smith's driving license) enables the cheat mode. Within months of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord's 1981 release, at least two commercial trainers appeared. 1983 advertisements for "The Great Escape Utility" for Castle Wolfenstein (1981) promised that the $15 product "remodels every feature of the game. Stop startup delays, crashes and chest waiting. Get any item, in any quantity. Start in any room, at any rank. Handicap your aim. Even add items".
Later, cheating grew more popular with magazines, websites, and even a television show, Cheat!, dedicated to listing cheats and walkthroughs for consoles and computer systems. POKE cheats were replaced by trainers and cheat codes. Generally, the majority of cheat codes on modern day systems are implemented not by gamers, but by game developers. Some say that as many people do not have the time to complete a video game on their own, cheats are needed to make a game more accessible and appealing to a casual gamer. In many cases, developers created cheats to facilitate testing, then left them in the game as they expanded the number of ways people could play it. With the rise in popularity of gaming, cheating using external software and hardware raised a number of copyright legal issues related to modifying game code.
Many modern games have removed cheat codes entirely, except when used to unlock certain secret bonuses. The usage of real-time achievement tracking made it unfair for any one player to cheat. In online multiplayer games, cheating is frowned upon and disallowed, often leading to a ban. However, certain games may unlock single-player cheats if the player fulfills a certain condition. Yet other games, such as those using the Source engine, allow developer consoles to be used to activate a wide variety of cheats in single-player or by server administrators.
Cheat codes are usually activated by typing secret passwords or pressing controller buttons in a certain sequence. Less common activation methods include entering certain high score names, holding keys or buttons while dying, picking up items in a particular order and otherwise performing unintuitive actions. Some games may also offer a debug console that can be used to edit game parameters. Effects might include unlocking a character or improving a character's performance: for example providing a car with greater acceleration, or just visual gags such as "big-head mode" in GoldenEye 007. Some games humorously penalise the player for using another game's cheat codes. For example, using cheat codes from Doom in Heretic gives the opposite of the desired effect, such as instant death instead of invulnerability or stripping weapons instead of providing them.
Unlike other cheating methods, cheat codes are implemented by the game developers themselves, often as a tool to playtest certain aspects of the game without difficulty. One of the earliest known examples of this type of cheat is the Konami Code, created in 1986 by Konami developer Kazuhisa Hashimoto as he worked on porting the 1985 arcade game Gradius for use on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Hashimoto is quoted as saying "The arcade version of Gradius is really difficult, right? I never played it that much, and there was no way I could finish the game, so I inserted the so-called Konami code."
Cheating can easily be achieved by modifying the game's data while it is running. These methods of cheating are often less reliable than cheat codes included in a game by its creators. This is due to the fact that certain programming styles or quirks of internal game logic, different release versions of a game, or even using the same game at different times or on different hardware, may result in different memory usage and hence the trainer program might have no effect, or stop the game from running altogether. Modifying game data usually constitutes a violation of a software license agreement that prohibits modifying the program at all.
The legality of this type of devices has been questioned, such as in the case of Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc., in which Nintendo unsuccessfully sued Lewis Galoob Toys stating that its cheating device, the Game Genie, created derivative works of games and thus violated copyright law.
Cheating exists in many multiplayer video games. While there have always been cheat codes and other ways to make single-player games easier, developers often attempt to prevent it in multiplayer games. With the release of the first popular internet multiplayer games, cheating took on new dimensions. Previously it was rather easy to see if the other players cheated, as most games were played on local networks or consoles. The Internet changed that by increasing the popularity of multiplayer games, giving the players relative anonymity, and giving people an avenue to communicate cheats.