As a child, the idea of having a device to input cheat codes into Pokémon and do whatever one desires was a compelling prospect for Ethan. With hundreds of hours dumped into his copy of Pokémon Diamond, he wanted to master the game, explore every nook and cranny, and find all the hidden secrets. Ethan’s excitement led him to hack his way to Pokémon mastery, but it left him with nothing but regret and a few glitchy Bad Eggs.

Each Pokémon game presented an entire world that felt genuinely lived-in, and Pokémon Diamond was no exception. It boasted a region filled with stories of ancient, world-creating deities, mysterious areas like the haunted Old Chateau, and other fascinating tidbits of historical lore hidden away in library bookshelves and optional NPC dialogue. The game had an endless abundance of secrets to discover, even beyond what might be accessible to the average player.

The Dark Side of Cheating

Ethan’s excitement led him to cheat his way to Pokémon mastery. After maxing out every member of his party’s stats, he spawned in shiny variants of Deoxys, Celebi, and every other rare ‘Mon he could think of, catching them all without breaking a sweat. However, he soon grew sick of the instant gratification and turned his thoughts to exploration.

After selecting a cheat to allow his character to walk through walls, he discovered a greater revelation than his childish mind could have ever anticipated. There, lying just beyond the normally-viewable foliage was…nothing. A black, empty out-of-bounds void. He took a step past the trees and out into the inky ether, and the game promptly froze. Rebooting his DS and trying the same thing in a few other locales yielded similar results.

Cracking open a favorite video game and seeing the seams holding it all together can be just as entertaining as playing the game itself. It’s a major reason why online creators like Boundary Break, who devote their content to demystifying the things normally just out-of-sight in games, have captivated such a wide audience. But for a child who treasured immersion and escapism more than anything else in these experiences, pulling back that veil was nothing short of deflating. It became the linchpin for Ethan’s realization that, at the end of the day, a game is just a game.

As a Pokémon Trainer, Ethan had everything he could ever want. But why bother battling if he knew his ‘Mons were the strongest they could ever possibly be? Why try to complete the Pokédex when it was as simple as pressing a few buttons to get the creatures he didn’t have yet? Exploration was a no-go too. He knew what was out there, or what wasn’t. No sense in trekking around when he’s seen everything there is to see.

It took a long time for Ethan to fully rebuild his passion for Pokémon following his hacking experience. Today, he regularly replays the old games with nostalgic reverence. He loves to grumble about the controversial new titles on Switch as well, being too prideful to admit that, yes, he’s still having fun despite the flaws. However, he’s rarely been able to replicate that unique feeling he had with Pokémon before he hacked his way into seeing its skeleton. Only a few masterpieces, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, have managed to recapture his imagination with that facade of limitless potential.

In a sense, Ethan has the Action Replay to thank for showing him what he truly loves most about games and teaching him that there’s no fun in cheating his way to the top. If he could go back, though, he wouldn’t hesitate to chuck that little hunk of third-party plastic out his bedroom window and enjoy the excitement of an endlessly vast Pokémon world for just a little longer.

Nintendo

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