BBarely an hour into Elden Ring, the latest furiously difficult fantasy adventure from Japanese studio From Software, I made a vital discovery: enemy warriors can be tricked into falling down elevator shafts. Or off the cliffs. I even managed to trick a skilled and deadly knight out of his castle and into the path of a giant boulder – a trap meant for me. This killed him instantly, sparing me an intense battle that would have likely involved several deaths and reboots. I knew I had crossed an important, almost forbidden Rubicon – I was now playing one of the most critically acclaimed games of the year.
Cheesing is video game slang for beating tasks or enemies by tactics that, while not exactly cheating, certainly don’t follow Queensbury rules. When you play a game, you exploit systemic quirks or apparent design oversights to gain maximum advantage for minimum skill or effort. Players have always had cheese. This is something I discovered via the 1985 fighting game Way of the Exploding Fist, in which each of the enemy fighters could be defeated by continuously using the leg sweeping motion. Later, Street Fighter II became famous for its vulnerability to cheese lovers. These dastardly warriors would invariably play the role of Blanka, whose electrifying move offered vital seconds of invulnerability.
Recently I tweeted a request for people’s favorite memories of their own corny video game victories, and the responses have been an absolute delight. Whether it’s throwing enemy soldiers from the ramparts of Assassin’s Creed, crushing bosses as they appear on screen in Streets of Rage, or standing in exactly the right place in Zelda 2, Respondents were thrilled to beat computer-controlled enemies in ways the designers probably hadn’t imagined. The most popular answer, however, came from Andrew Brazier, who wrote:
“In Rollercoaster Tycoon, the mission where you had to have a more popular park than the one next door – I built a roller coaster that threw riders over the fence until they died. Fatalities are recorded on the other park’s stats, so their popularity is exploding.
The tweet garnered over 300 likes. Obviously, people admired his combination of ingenious thinking and extreme violence.
But is cheese inherently bad? Is it bad? I don’t think that’s the case – it’s just a more abstract, tangential approach to winning. Writer and philosopher Edward de Bono defined lateral thinking as “breaking out of the conceptual prison of old ideas”, and that’s kind of what cheesing is – it challenges accepted concepts of gameplay and skill. Lateral thinking during conflict is something we have grudgingly admired throughout history, from the Trojan Horse, through Machiavellian political philosophy, to the sports stars of today. today. One of the most famous victories in tennis history was when young contender Michael Chang beat superstar Ivan Lendl at Roland Garros in 1989 with literally underhanded tactics.
The cheese represents an interesting dichotomy between two types of video game consumers: “game players”, who see the experience in abstract terms, as a puzzle to be solved through all the available possibilities, and “game players”. role” that seek to inhabit the character and the universe, and exist within its narrative constraints. None of these are wrong per se, they just come to the idea of winning from different angles.
There are, however, gradients on the cheese scale. For example, standing in an area that a computer-controlled enemy cannot legitimately access is one thing, but taking advantage of an enemy stuck in the landscape due to a character model issue is another. I mean, I’m not above that – that’s how I beat most boss fights in Cyberpunk 2077 – but it feels more like cynical exploitation rather than video game the system. In response to my cheese tweet, video game journalist Jason Schreier happily admitted defeating one of the toughest bosses in co-op online shooter Destiny by unplugging his LAN cable at a vital moment, taking advantage of of an error in the net of the game. code.
Look, as a race, human beings are designed to seek out, understand, and exploit patterns and systems: no one has ever killed a saber-toothed predator while playing by its rules. There is a particular pleasure in beating a system in a way the system did not expect; it reminds us that we are individuals and we have free will. Of course, when I beat the insanely powerful Tree Sentinel of Elden Ring by hiding in a church alcove and repeatedly stabbing it with a spear, I didn’t walk away feeling glorious ( it wouldn’t have made a nice ending to a Homerian epic or a Hollywood action movie). But I did walk, which is more than one would say for the Tree Sentinel.
There’s a vital lesson here that goes beyond the game. The victories you celebrate with a wry smile are often more lasting and meaningful than those accompanied by a punch and a shout. If the system is stacked against you, silent disobedience is a triumph. To slightly misquote Katharine Hamnett’s 1983 T-shirt slogan: cheese life.