bending rules

The thrill of cheesing a video game

When I look back at my most memorable gaming moments, I see a myriad of wonderful times - that moment when everything clicked and I understood everything in Bioshock Infinite, that elation at finally collecting that 120th star in Super Mario 64. Aside from those general achievements that any person can achieve though, it's the thrill of outsmarting a game at it's own mechanics that stand out most in my time playing video games.

A video game, boiled down to it's very basics, is a set of rules. Look passed the beautiful graphics, the amazing story, the tight controls, and you will see a certain set of rules you must obey in order to actually play the game. Do this. Go here. Fight this person. Collect X of this item. If your attack is higher than the opponents defense, you win.

These rules, however, can sometimes be... bent.

In my latest dive back into old favourites, I decided to run through Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for 9th time. I had a ball weaving my way through the story, figuring out my forgotten strategies, leveling up my characters. Then I made it to a certain level in the game and remembered that I needed to perform a specific action in order to unlock an important character further down the road.

Without going into all the nitty gritty details, I needed my main character to have a speed stat of at least 27 in order to perform this action without dying. His current speed was 24. When leveling up, he has a 35% chance of his speed stat increasing by 1. Not fantastic odds. That coupled with the fact that him gaining 3 levels before performing this action is nearly impossible... It seems it couldn't be done.

Well... I did say nearly impossible...

After working through all the math, retrying the level at least 4 times, save-reseting several times before a level up - I actually managed to get the main character's speed stat to 27, perform the action and have all of my characters live in the process. After 4 hours of working my way through this level, I'd managed to swing all the odds in my favour to do what I set out to do - even though, if I'd technically played the game the way it was supposed to be played, it never would have happened.

"Cheesing", as you have probably guessed by now, is the action of exploiting a games' set parameters, bending the rules to make them work for you. The word has hit critical mass recently thanks to a tiny indie game that you may have heard of called Destiny. If there was ever a game where bending a video games' rules was widespread throughout a player base, Destiny is it.

It seems that Destiny, as a game, is less about the story, the missions, the loot - and more about finding ways to break the game itself. Loot caves/stairs, hiding spots on boss fights - if there's a way the system can be bent, Destiny players will find it. And they love doing it.

There's an immense sense of satisfaction you get when you work out a way to bend a video game's rules to your will. When you technically work within the guidelines that were set for you - even though what you have done is not at all what the developer intended. It makes you feel smarter than the average gamer.

As if cheese needed another good thing going for it.


Have some wonderful memories of times you've bent the limits of a game to your whim? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @lawnch1.