A brief history of cheats

Game cheats have spawned an entire industry of their own. It began in the back pages of magazines, then in full cheat books, and finally settled on the internet, where sharing cheats is as established as sharing ultra-niche Bolivian porn. Just ask our tireless CheatPlanet editor, Paul Ryan, and he’ll probably tell you, “Yeah, cheats. People like those.”

Above: Paul saying what he would probably say if you asked him about cheats 

But despite the massive popularity of the phenomenon, cheats are rarely talked about by the likes of silly-game-feature-writers like us, unless, of course, they involve breasts. But cheats don’t have to involve breasts to be interesting (well, they do a little), they have an important and colorful history! And here’s the abridged version of that history, as well as some breasts (not abridged).


Early in the history of videogames, cheating was really cheating. It was achieved by loading games into memory and modifying useful values before launching them. These memory hacks were called POKEs, named for the BASIC function used to overwrite memory. A typical POKE looked absolutely nothing like this:

Above: This shit did not exist 

It looked much more like this: POKE 31211, 134

The first number is the address of the memory cell, and the second number is the new value. Assuming you had found (using “PEEK,” naturally) the location of some hypothetical “lives” variable, you were set. But it wasn’t easy to find the right bits of memory to mess with, so publications began running lists of POKEs – the birth of the cheats industry! Modern games are mostly immune to the tactic, as memory is significantly more protected than it was in the 8-bit days.

The concept of intentionally created cheats also appeared early in the evolution of games, at about the point when cheats became necessary for testing. Without some sort of debug mode or life-extending cheat to make games easier, testing the absurdly difficult games of yore would have been absurdly difficult.

One particularly early example is in the 1983 ZX Spectrum game Manic Miner, which contains a cheat mode activated by entering “6031769,” a number rumored to be the developer’s phone number, and sometimes his driver’s license number, but is probably neither.  Manic Miner was hugely popular and ridiculously hard, which is why the code is burnt into the brains of Spectrum owners with more force than “867-5309.”

Above: Look, you can even get the number on a shirt so that everyone knows that you know something they don’t 


  • jmcgrotty - September 7, 2010 7:04 a.m.

    In 1988, we were drinking New York Seltzer.
  • FanofSaiyan - December 12, 2009 10:01 p.m.

    Flying cars... Freakin' Genius!!!
  • gatornation1254 - August 6, 2009 6:10 a.m.

    Oh man Yeager thats how I found this site also. I think thats how most early users did. ReCAPTCHA: as groin I'm sorry but wat the fuck.
  • SandroTheMaster - August 5, 2009 6:37 p.m.

    Ow... and I thought for sure you'd put the Age of Conan Go-Kart glitch in here. Didn't do anything, but it sure was fun hanging around in a major city by sliding on your ass sitting in the ground. It sure puzzled a few people.
  • Yeager1122 - August 4, 2009 11:18 p.m.

    Oh it did used to be called cheatplanet so i was righ tdisregard that last statement again.
  • wikdsi - August 4, 2009 5:03 p.m.

    Goto for the best cheats for BF2 to COD4. Nothing compares to these cheats. When you want the best come to 187ci. We own everyone!!!!
  • T2x - August 4, 2009 9:11 a.m.

    Lol tiktak you newb. Somebody sad over getting banned?
  • Inmate781 - August 4, 2009 2:46 a.m.

    187 Is by far the best, makes gaming 10X better... about as much fun you can have with your pants on!
  • Commanderpyle - August 3, 2009 7:45 p.m.

    HOW DARE YOU forget about the number 1 most incredible hacking community 187ci. We are murdercheats and rule the hacking world from BF2-Cod series, we have the most unstoppable hack and the most unstoppable coder, we rip up servers and dish out headshots OVER and OVER through 1337 mudercheats 187ci penage power :D
  • Jordo141 - August 2, 2009 11:17 a.m.

    As a proud Spectrum owner, I do indeed have the 6031769 code burned into my mind.
  • iKOemos - August 1, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    @Yeager: I don't use cheats so much now either but when i was 10 I used them a heck of a lot. I followed Cheatplanet until it was bought and integrated into this internet utopia... That is was happened rite?
  • sgloomy - August 1, 2009 5:29 p.m.

    the best GTA cheat was in GTA3, the tank spawn, it helped me get through so many missions from racing to assassination, it was by far the best cheat ever!!!!
  • nadrewod999 - August 1, 2009 3:03 p.m.

    Sometimes, when even the easiest difficulty level of a game makes you die in seconds after spawning (happened to me on RSV), you need cheats, but they can't be two-way cheats, like a one-shot kill cheat that means you shoot at an enemy right as he fires at you and you both die (this was the case on RSV. Damn you Vegas!) Other than that, I mainly use cheats as playtoys when I play the game a second time, just to see how easily I can pwn the AI. I mean, activating god mode on a game where you normally have a microscopic amount of health is just one of the funniest things you can do, or playing through the Da Vinci Code game just so that you can get to the final boss fight and just stand in front of him, constantly getting shot yet not even getting one ounce of health (did this on my PS2) Overall, cheats are sad if you do them on your first playthrough when you could easily destroy the AI without them, a godsend when you are trying to beat a game that kills you the second you try to move, and just plain fun when you are just replaying the game to see how almighty you can be with cheats (imagine if you could fly in the first Tomb Raider)
  • Yeager1122 - August 1, 2009 8:38 a.m.

    whoops i feel dumb cheatplanets there cheat thing disregard that.
  • Yeager1122 - August 1, 2009 8:27 a.m.

    @iKOemos thats how i found this wesite to though i think it used to be called cheatplanet not sure though. I havent used cheats since i was like nine they ruin the game experience for me at least.
  • Samael - August 1, 2009 4:36 a.m. Paul really like that?
  • Sabtos - August 1, 2009 2:14 a.m.

    I swear to god before I read anything on the article I went down to click page four, before I even did I thought "flying cars GTA" and on page fucking four right at the top. Not that crazy but still, crazy shit.
  • iKOemos - August 1, 2009 1:18 a.m.

    Oh the hours I spent with San Andreas and its cheats... ah good times. I owe it to cheats you know, without them I would never have discovered this website 5 years ago when I was looking for cheats for DBZ: Bodukai 2. Thank you cheat codes.
  • Tasty_Pasta - July 31, 2009 11:23 p.m.

    The first game I ever used cheats on was Army Men 2 for PC. That game had some ridiculously fun things you could do.
  • Scott1121 - July 31, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    i was getting to righting a real comment thank you very much. I used to use cheats all the time but i dont really use them that much anymore it is either bcuz they disable achievements or cheats just arnt that common anymore.

Showing 1-20 of 59 comments

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