I find absolutely zero shame in telling you all here today that I am a cheeser. I cheese whenever possible. Tactics? Strategy? No thanks. I’d rather hide behind a pillar and take potshots for half an hour than do things the “right way”.
Hold up, dial it back. I know you like talking about food in all your pieces, Kate, but why are you talking about cheese, and what does this have to do with Nintendo? Did they just announce a new Labo kit made entirely of pre-sliced Jarlsberg?
Ah, apologies: let’s have a wee etymology lesson first to set your mind at cheese. “Cheesing” is a term that has come to mean “defeating a boss/enemy/level in a video game with an unorthodox, easy method” — like standing in a spot where the enemy’s attacks can’t reach you, or using a character’s items, moves, or animations to your advantage in a way unintended by the designers.
According to this Inverse article on the origin of the term, it comes from the late-1800s use of “cheesy” as something that is inferior, cheap, or unfair. Thus, “cheesy” strategies in a video game are considered lazy, unskilled, and shallow, especially in a competitive game, or a game that requires great skill to beat.
You’ll often hear people asking a studio to “nerf” certain characters in competitive games which have been discovered to have some cheesy edge. To “nerf” means to basically take away that exploit, by, for example, reducing a character’s range, or rebalancing their statistics to bring them back in line with other characters. It’s a tricky business, but you don’t want any one playable character to just be naturally better than another, right?
Some of you might know the term “cheesing” from Dark Souls, where a good cheese means find gaps in a boss’ armour (so to speak; most of them wear “armour” in the same way my floor wears clothes) or exploit an unintended weakness, making battles that are supposed to be challenging into rather boring tests of patience and resolve.
An early example of this is in the very first Dark Souls game, where a gigantic dragon sits atop a bridge. You could try to run past him, and that’s basically what the game wants you to do, since he’s a big scary bastard — or you could stand at a very specific point, and shoot 200 or so arrows at his tail over the course of about 30 minutes, and get yourself an incredibly powerful sword for the early game. I did this. I am not ashamed. In my opinion, if it works, it’s legitimate — and it doesn’t diminish the achievements of anyone else who beat this scaly boi the old-fashioned way.
But the argument against cheesing continues. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s not what the game’s about. All of these are fair points, but I’ve personally never been a believer in policing how other people play games.
I’ve been playing Bloodborne slowly for about a year now, and I would have snapped the disk in half a long time ago if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve figured out plenty of ways to play it the way I like. I spent a good few hours patiently grinding in the early game, making me way overpowered for the first few bosses. They were all probably expecting some weedy Victorian orphan to burst through their fogdoors, instead of this beefy hunter that spent the entire fight standing in a corner and flailing a saw around like they were trying to swat flies. By the time I got to the middle of the game, I was slicing bad guys in two before they’d even finished their “oh look! A hunter!” animation.
Bloodborne and Dark Souls are supposed to be about feeling weak and underpowered in the face of planet-sized monsters, I know. They’re supposed to be about learning patterns and figuring out how to parry. But, you see, cheesing the occasional fight and grinding harder than my teeth at night is still a strategy — and it didn’t stop me from also having to learn patterns and figure out how to parry. It just let me do it on my own time.
I really, really love Bloodborne. A large part of that is down to being able to play it my way. It’s fun to fight the big, scary Snatchers in the Hypogean Gaol by standing on the stairs, just out of reach, hitting them with my big sword and then running away. If I were brave, I’d fight ’em out in the open, but I’d also probably die a lot — and, as an adult with many responsibilities, I don’t have a lot of time for playing and replaying a game until I get it right. Also, as I’ve already said: cheesing is fun.
But, of course, as I’ve already mentioned — cheesing in a competitive game gives a player an unfair edge. I love to cheese when I’m on my own, but I wouldn’t dream of cheesing in Smash Bros or Mario Kart unless I was looking to lose all my friends. There’s a difference between taking a shortcut, being really good at combos, or using a particular character to your advantage, and using a cheesy strategy to become unbeatable. No one likes that guy!
So, what do you all think? Is cheesing acceptable, or is it a cheat’s tactic? Does it make a difference whether it’s in a solo game, or a multiplayer game? And most importantly: what is your favourite cheese?