The background is that I got ahold of a copy of the game Mirror's Edge, I'm probably going to make an entire post on my experience of playing it, which will be very much related to some of the stuff discussed here, but for now the important information is that my impressions of the game were as follows:
First impression, "Oh my God this is amazing, I have to recommend this to everyone and there should be more games like this."
Second impression: "This game could serve as an object lesson in why there should be quick saving as an option in all games."
Third impression: "I want to inflict physical harm on whoever decided you shouldn't be able to manually save."
I found some third party programs that allowed me to cheat my way around most of the frustration, but having to do that circumventing when all I needed was a bog standard save feature was itself pretty damn frustrating and in the process of all of this happening I again found myself reading about what seems to be a perennial internet debate on gaming.
Should games let you save whenever you want to? Should games have cheats?
First, it's important to note that this is about single player gaming. Quicksave and multiplayer would mix like an oceanliner and a desert, and cheating in multiplayer has some serious moral problems because you're breaking the rules to the detriment of someone else.
And second, I suppose, I should say what those two things actually are. Saving you probably already know, even if you've never so much looked in the general direction of a videogame. You save your progress so that, should something go wrong, it will not be lost. Also so that you can get back to it if you have the need or desire. It's just like saving any other file, and it protects against some of the same things that might go wrong. (E.g. your computer losing power.)
Quicksaving is saving that you can do without having to open up a menu screen. You just push a button and it saves the game. Generally there is one slot for quicksave so quicksaving overwrites the previous quicksave. Thus it's not for something you might want to go back to later, it's for saving your progress as you move forward. (Quicksave tends to be accompanied by quickload, which, again at the push of a button and without a menu screen, loads your quicksave.)
Cheats are many and varied. Probably the quintessential cheat is god mode which prevents you from dying. Infinite health, no risk of being shot to death. Depending on the game you might also be able to use cheats to fly, or alter the flow or time, or summon a bunch of lizard chickens, make them loyal to you, have them follow you around, and have them defeat your enemies by breathing fire at said enemies. (Console commands in Deus Ex, I love you so.)
Saving and cheating can both serve multiple functions. They can eliminate frustration. For example saving can make it so a single stupid mistake doesn't require to repeat an entire lengthy sequence that, while it might have been fun the first time, is not so fun on the 16th or 64th time. Cheating can get you passed a trouble spot where you always seem to get shot in the head or fall off a cliff even though it shouldn't be causing you such problems.
They can add to your fun. As the above example with the fire breathing lizard chicken loyal minions. Or if you have a part that you really like surrounded by some parts you don't like so much, you can save right before it and be able to go back and replay the part you like without having to suffer through the parts you don't like.
They can make something more accessible. For example I have the reaction time of a tortoise and the aim of something that doesn't aim very well. If not for the ability to cheat most games would be beyond my abilities because I am simply too damned slow to play right. (I'm also a horrible spotter, if you give me the job of calling out where rocks are while we go down rapids, the canoe will end up capsized before the end.) By the time I've reacted to incoming fire and taken aim, in most games my character will have been nearly killed or killed outright.
Cheating can help with that, so too can saving. With cheating I can regenerate health, slow the game down to give me more time to react, and if all else fails become invincible. With saving I can save after every encounter I manage to survive, or even mid encounter should I have gained an advantage I don't want to lose. (This is, I think, why some people consider quicksave tantamount to cheating, it can get you through spots where your skills alone would fail.)
My general slowness also means that if ever a game requires you to time something just right (not in a "You have 15 seconds to do X" way but in a "When you see Y you have to press button Z right away," way) I will fail pitifully. This is a wonderful time to pull out the cheats and change the flow of time. Likewise for needing to hit multiple buttons at nearly the same time in a given sequence.
They can also let you find enjoyment in places you otherwise never would. For example I was playing Jedi Outcast one time and I reached a point where I had one point of health left. If I couldn't save then the logical response would be to use force healing and get back to reasonable amount of health before proceeding. But I could save, so I did save, and then I went on to the next area, filled with enemies with powerful weapons, and saw what fun could be had. Turned out quite a lot. It generally ended with me dying, but I had saved so that wasn't a problem. I found that maximum enjoyment came from bringing cheats into the mix and kicking the flow of time into extreme slow motion.
Anyway, it probably comes as no surprise that when it comes to the question of either saving or cheats I'm on the side of letting the option exist.
Often times, when I talk about this game or that, the person I'm talking to will say that they don't play games because they're not any good at them. I generally respond by saying that I'm not either but I get around it by cheating. Part of the reason I say that is because if I don't it feels like I'm claiming that, unlike the speaker, I am good at games. I'm not. But I think that part of it is also that I want them to know both that the option exists, and I think it's important to have people admit to cheating in order to show that there's no shame in it.
Ok, so, things defined and described, time to talk about the actual debate.
First off, I should point out that it's more complicated than I'm going to get into in this post. Like most things there's not a simple binary but a sort of continuous spectrum from one position to the next, and since there are more than two poles it becomes a sort of tetrahedron of positions. That said, for this post I'm only concerned really with those who say that quicksaving or/and cheats should not exist and how those people relate to everyone else.
I honestly do not understand these people in the least. If they were saying that work shouldn't be put into including these things because the effort would be better spent elsewhere I'd at least understand where they're coming from. But that's not where they're coming from. (Amoung other things, most games have cheats already because they get used in the debugging process. Making games cheat-free involves more effort than not doing so, only a tiny bit more, but more none the less.) No, the argument is primarily moral and apocalyptic.
These things cannot be allowed because they're wrong. (They make the game too easy, you see.) And if they are allowed they'll ruin everything for everyone.
When people not of this persuasion ask how this will happen answers are not as forthcoming as one might hope.
Other people will ask how what someone else does in the privacy of their own home with their copy of the game could possibly effect these people's experience of the game. How does person X using cheats in single player harm your relationship with the game?
At this point the conversation always seems to shift sideways in a way that allows the person to not answer. On the rare occasion that it doesn't I'm left with the impression that they think whatever isn't prohibited is mandatory. They say that the game will be too easy, never seeming to realize that they don't need to use cheats and if they don't like quicksaving they can just never hit that button. (They can even unbind the button so, should they ever be tempted, they will be unable to.)
If people point out that, even when there are cheat codes, its entirely possible to not use them this seems to either not register, or do the aforementioned going sideways. Ditto for saving.
The sideways going tends to go into generalities, for example the idea of overriding right and wrong that means that what they're against is bad and harmful and whatnot just because, or the idea of deservingness.
People who can't win/enjoy the game via traditional means (though at this point I think cheat codes and saving are both pretty damned traditional) don't deserve to partake in the institution of game and letting us in will bring the whole thing down. Somehow, they never really say how, opening it up to more people will cheapen and defile it for those deserving people who already have it.
Now to some people this might sound vaguely familiar to something from an area completely unrelated to gaming, or it might not in which case never mind, but I'm honestly not trying to take any steps to make the two things seem more like one another than they are. I'm not trying for any extended metaphor here. This is really a thing.
I think this area pretty much the only place I've encountered this kind of thinking outside of the intersection of religion and politics. In the very secular realm of single player video games there's the idea that there's some kind of universal property to the thing so that if anyone does something you don't like, that will defile everything for everyone and somehow harm you.
It's not enough to just follow your morals for yourself, you have to make sure that everyone else does it too because, even if no one else is affected directly, it somehow harms you indirectly to have them doing it.
There's also the same, "If we let people do this then everyone, even people who don't want to right now, will do it," thing we see elsewhere to stop people from having nice things. (Or, indeed, basic rights.)
Things that people don't want for themselves have to be made impossible. I remember an occasion where someone found out that the game they were playing had cheats enabled by default. There were not cheats activated. Which meant that, even with cheats enabled, the only way actual cheating would take place was if they opened the console, deleted the command "say" (because the console was theoretically there to communicate in the non-existent multiplayer, not cheat in single player), typed in a cheat code that they would have had to look up first, and then hit enter. Which is to say that cheating wouldn't happen unless they actually actively wanted it to. That wasn't enough for them, and they were left freaking out over it because the mere possibility of cheating cannot be allowed to exist.
That incident was actually pretty moderate, they just wanted to disable cheats and then alter the game code so that it could never be enabled again on their own copy. Most of the anti-cheat people want that done for everyone, and want it done that way for all games before they're released to the public.
I don't understand these people.
I don't understand these people because their morality tells them that what is important is not harm or help to actual people, but whether arbitrary rules are broken. Rules that sometimes exist only in their own minds. They can't be happy unless the know that everyone has to play by their rules and no one they consider undeserving is enjoying themselves.
None of that makes sense to me.
In the end, so long as we don't cause ourselves discomfort or sabotage our enjoyment, my feeling is that we can't cheat ourselves at solitaire because, being solitaire, it's up to us to determine how the game is played. If someone wants to play in a way that violates the rules I know, say if they want to have all the cards turned up so that they know exactly where everything is and can try to work out the most efficient solution or whatnot, that's not going to bother me. If they can enjoy that then good for them. (Looking at the Wikipedia article linked to above I can see that that means of "cheating" is actually considered a game in its own right. It is called "Thoughtful Solitaire".)