Cheat Codes For The Game of Life

Having an addiction is like being unable to play a game without using cheat codes.

Kev The Metaject
4 min readApr 4, 2023
Photo by Ke Vin on Unsplash

Even though I’m not the gaymer I used to be anymore, I’m certainly old enough to remember the concept of cheat codes. They were the creator’s way of offering secret backdoor access to additional content (“easter eggs”), side-quests, shortcuts and abilities. Then of course there’s the “god mode” cheat. I used to love using that one in Age of Empires or Warcraft until the novelty of being able to one-hit-kill an entire army with a single peon wore off. It is not surprising that it didn’t take long for the game to become pointless.

Addictions of any form (and degree) but especially those involving the use of substances can be analogous to using cheat codes, in the “game” of life. Rather than playing through and overcoming the obstacles of a game, cheat codes allow the player to make things easier or open secret areas of the game that would normally be inaccessible without the cheat.

Those of us who are die-hard players refuse to play any game using these codes, much like people who think cannabis is a gateway drug.

Some of us are casual/recreational players that use them on occasion to access secret content and “bonus” experiences. Some might eventually find it more meaningful to play their game (and life) without these shortcuts at all. To each and their own.

But those of us who find ourselves seeing the “game over” screen too many times might one day believe “god mode” is the only way to get through or even just to stay in the game. As I mentioned before, the game quickly becomes pointless this way.

You see, the whole idea behind any addiction is to bypass the process of getting rewards from long-term goals in favour of short-term ones. For example, instead of holding out for the reward of having a healthier body through regular exercise, some of us settle for the immediate gratification of a cupcake. The neurochemistry in that desire and reward process is identical in all cases no matter the vice. The reason why our brains convince us to make such decisions is that we see the reward from the long-term goal as being somehow less attainable. Most of us probably don’t truly believe we could ever get the body we want, so we reach for the treat in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Better yet, we could learn to accept and love the body we have.

What differentiates substances from the rest is how it hacks the reward system by speaking directly to the brain in its native language, neurotransmitters. It gives the brain an even shorter path to the reward than a cupcake would. It skips the complicated narratives normally used to convince us to either go for the cupcake or exercise.

The god-mode cheat allows us to win all the time but it also prevents us from truly playing the game and by the time we realize this, we would have seen everything up to the end of the game. The mystery and wonder of what might be waiting for us on the next level are ruined. Even with the cheat turned off there is no more incentive to try to beat the game again for real. We’ve killed the final boss and watched the final cut scene. We know the ending to the game story.

That being said, games are over-simplistic compared to real life. Desires and rewards are vastly subjective. It’s easy to think of our lives based on possessions like objects, money, property, or even skills and accomplishments. However, these are just objective components we use to anchor or give form to the subjective desires and rewards themselves.

We decide how we want to play our own game of life. We can decide the narrative of our life’s story. Perhaps with the right shift in perspective or outlook, we could learn about other possible endings to discover for ourselves.

Please forgive this crudely constructed analogy, but I do think there’s some usefulness to this comparison. I believe being able to craft and live out our narratives is one way of looking at what it means to live a happy life. Of course, that’s an oversimplification as well.

One of the reasons why MMORPGs became so popular is because the narratives are largely open and are most engaging when played in groups. There are no “cheat codes” in MMORPGs. Cheat codes have essentially been replaced with in-game purchases. Using the same analogy, what does this tell you?




Kev The Metaject

A 9-5er, amateur photographer, writer, and sci-phi enthusiast seeking connections between the seemingly disconnected. (INTP, 9w1, he/him, cis, gay, geek)