David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

GameDev Stories 1 by David L. Craddock

Programmer. Artist. Musician. Designer. Producer. Editor. Collector. Video games comprise a multibillion-dollar industry thanks to the people who make and play them. From designers and producers to collectors, community managers, editors, and hardware manufacturers, each plays a role in maintaining and advancing the medium of interactive entertainment. Each has a story to tell.

Collected from the author's archives, GameDev Stories: Interviews About Game Development and Culture gathers conversations with individuals from all corners of the industry: Who they are, the paths they paved, and their contributions to our hobby.


This is where it all started. My first idea to open my interview archives and share some of the conversations that had informed various books and articles written over 20+ years. It has some of my favorites, and is still one of my most popular books. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle.com




Videogame trends come and go. Yesterday's popular genre, title, or game mechanic is today's relic. Of all the trends I've seen come and go in 30-plus years of playing and writing about games, cheat codes hold a special place in my heart.

Cheat codes meant different things depending on the game I was playing. When I was a kid, I was only allowed 30 minutes of "Nintendo" time on school nights. Some NES games offered a password system as a way of picking up where you left off. Fewer still used batteries to save progress. Most of the games I loved, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game, offered neither. Every weeknight felt like a slice of Groundhog Day: I'd pick my turtle, beat the first two-and-a-half levels, then get halfway through the sewer before Mom told me to turn off the system and put away my controller.

TMNT 2 benefitted from the vaunted Konami code. A dozen or so button taps later, and I beheld a cheat menu that let me choose the level where I wanted to start. I was amazed and grateful. Using a cheat, I could resume my progress, after a fashion.

In 2016, I pitched Waypoint (formerly VICE Gaming) an article about the history of cheat codes and devices. The site was interested, and the article did well, but even with a generous word limit there were all sorts of fascinating morsels I had to cut.

Here are those interviews in their entirety, divided into parts in order to better organize the perspectives of developers, editors, and cheat-device makers.

Part 1: Dan Amrich, Editor - GamePro, Official Xbox Magazine (OXM), Games Radar

When I set out to write about the history of cheat codes, Dan Amrich topped my list of people to talk to. Before I go any further, I should apologize to Dan for ending that sentence with a preposition. Not only was Dan one of the leading voices in gaming magazines from Game Pro to OXM and Games Radar, he was one of the first editors with whom I worked (better, Dan?). When I entered the freelance scene in 2007, OXM was one of my first clients, and Dan one of my first contacts.

This was the first occasion I'd had to pick Dan's brain about his work. As expected, he was a font of fascinating tidbits, among which was the revelation that he helped to disseminate one of my favorite cheats: The DULLARD menu in Mortal Kombat for Sega Genesis.


Craddock: What was your earliest experience with cheat codes? Discovering one, trying one, etc.

Dan Amrich: I grew up in the era of Atari and arcades, so cheat codes were not as prevalent. I was fascinated with Easter eggs in games—the secret dot from Atari's Adventure was the first significant one I remember. They were basically urban legends at that point, and I would trade stories with friends at school, then we'd spend an afternoon trying to see if we could find this hidden stuff. It wasn't until the 16-bit era that I started hearing about cheat codes, and to be honest, I was not really a fan of them. I was very into the idea of playing the game "with honor" and facing the challenge that had been designed for me. If the game was too hard, I didn't want to get 30 free lives—I wanted to get better. So I liked the idea of hidden stuff, but I didn't like the idea of cheating to win.

I have always been into puzzles and hidden treasure stories, so while I didn't get into using the cheat codes myself, I did enjoy hearing about them and trying to test them. My college social circle was small when it came to games and none of us could really afford enough games to test out a bunch of stuff. I wound up helping find and test them when I joined the media.

Craddock: At GamePro, one of your primary duties was answering letters from readers. You mentioned to me that you have many memories of fans asking for cheats. During your tenure, what codes/secrets were especially in-demand?

DA: Whatever the last game was that came out. That's what bugged me, actually—a game people had anticipated for a year would finally ship, and the next day we'd get an email asking for cheat codes for that game. I had issues with that approach: "I can't wait to play this game so I can not play the game." This attitude exists today in the form of people who watch YouTube playthroughs but never actually play the games. For some people, knowing what the game contains was more important than the experience of playing the game itself. The information of knowing more than your friends is more valuable to them.

Craddock: What were some of your favorite rumors or theories around codes and secrets during your time at GamePro? And was GamePro behind any of them?

DA: Now we're at the intersection of cheat codes and cruelty. For the April issue, both GamePro and EGM [Electronic Gaming Monthly] used to do jokes. GamePro's were clearly labeled under a section called LamePro; it was basically a four-page section of terrible puns and jokes that weren't as funny as any of the writers had hoped—but hey, it was openly called LamePro, so it was often lame. EGM took a different approach; they would just put in a fake news story about, say, Sonic and Tails being unlockable in Super Smash Bros Melee, or unlocking different versions of James Bond in Goldeneye. Their most famous one was that there was a secret unlockable character named Sheng Long in Street Fighter II, but the phrase "Sheng Long" was really just a translation error from Japanese to English.

The very real problem about EGM's joke stories is that people would write in and ask GamePro to confirm them—so we'd have to be the wet blanket and tell these poor kids that they would never be able to play the game they now dreamed about playing. I felt that was the responsible thing to do. I just hated the idea of someone saying, "I can't trust this magazine, they lie to me," so I went out of my way to let the kids know we were being honest with them at every turn.

At GamePro, a lot of kids would read a code in one magazine and then immediately copy it down and send it to another magazine, hoping to get the prize or fame. We'd usually get 30 or 40 letters with the same code around the same time. We did test the cheat codes before printing them in GamePro or OXM—I was in charge of the small cheats section at OXM when I worked there.

Craddock: Given that GamePro consisted of many types of content, how important were codes and secrets to the magazine's success?

DA: Early on, very. Cheat codes were the currency of cool—a way to show your friends that you knew more secrets than they did, that you were more into gaming than they were. In the same way that fans buy t-shirts or cosplay [to support] their favorite nerdy culture things, gamers who knew all the cheats were considered hardcore. That knowledge was power, and everybody wanted to play with power.

Being a magazine that had The Latest Information and was one option of many, cheats were as important as the newest reviews or previews—to some readers, more important, because it was tangible and something they could use to prove themselves. The fact that Tips & Tricks was one of the longest-running videogame magazines in the industry was not a coincidence; the lure of forbidden knowledge was strong.