Go ahead. Make my day.

Your cheating heart

This is just brilliant. Some geek wired up his Playstation 2 controller to his computer, and had it do a brute-force attack on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, trying out thousands of button combinations — in an attempt to find secret game-cheats. It worked: He discovered several hilarious ones, including:

Cars Fly


But not like the old Dodo cheat. You have thrust while you’re in the air, and can go faster than any airplane. Great for bookin’ around the map from place to place.

Mega Punch
Punches send people flying into the next block. One hit kills. Watch out, peds have it too!

I particularly love that former cheat, since it reminds me of the Matrix-like quality of gamespace. Much as in a dream, when you’re inside a game, you can oftentimes do something — type in some subtle cheat code — that transforms the nature of the world, and suddenly, hey, you’re flying! (Actually, in his book Playing the Future, Douglas Rushkoff argued that games could quite precisely be compared to dreams, and that this is why they ought to be analyzed with psychoanalytic rigor.)

More importantly, this guy’s discovery reminds me of the weird semantics of game “cheats”. Because of course, most of today’s cheats really aren’t cheats, at least not in the classic sense of cheating. The early cheats — such as the famous Asteroids cheat that gave you hundreds of extra men — were genuine bugs, little burps in the code that were included by accident and discovered by sneaky, infinite-monkey gamers. By the mid-90s, game designers realized the cheats were so popular that they began actively designing secret codes into the game. At this point, discovering a cheat was no longer an illicit affair; you were merely happening upon an extra easter egg the programmers had included specifically for you to find. But since gamers love feeling like rebels, the game companies continued to call these things “cheats”, even though the companies began profiting wildly by publishing guides to the cheats.

Antonio Gramsci couldn’t have dreamt up a better illustration of hegemony.

Nonetheless, this guy’s discovery of the new San Andreas cheats falls somewhere close to the original meaning of “cheat”. His discoveries were genuine secrets: Though Rockstar’s designers obviously programmed them intentionally into the game, they have never actively published or promoted them.

(Thanks to Slashdot for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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