Forget about profiles, let’s Bring Passwords Back into Video Games

The younger video game crowd has it easier these days, don’t they? Whether you’re playing on a video game console, a computer, or mobile device, you are usually equipped with a hard drive that will take care of saving everything for you, often even automatically. But back during the 8-bit and 16-bit era of gaming we didn’t have that privilege; back then the only viable way of saving our game progress usually was through a password system—a code that would give the player a way to continue playing where he or she left off before turning the console off.

If you were playing a rather long game from back then you had better be prepared with something to write on—the longer ones made you pay extra attention while writing them down, misspelling just one out of thirty-three characters could ruin your entire playthrough.

river-city-ransom-password
I’m not kidding; try not to mess this up.

Even though cartridges from back then could have an internal battery to actually hold save states, the password system was a way cheaper alternative that made it the preferred choice between most video game developers. But passwords became pretty much obsolete, and its practice went extinct as soon as memory cards became available to every important console.

That takes me back a bit, and whenever I think about passwords, there’s one that immediately jumps into my mind:

More than two decades ago, a childhood friend told me “007 373 5963—that’s the password to go straight against Mike Tyson” after lending me a copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Funny enough I don’t remember him reading that ten-digit code out of nowhere, he seemed to have that password memorized for some reason, and he made entirely sure I’d remember it.

“007 373 5963, 007 373 5963, 007 373 5963, got it! 007 373 5963!”

I “sang” that code as I ran back home to play the game seconds later I was fighting the pixelated version of Kid Dynamite himself, Mike Tyson.

Three uppercuts later, Little Mac—Punch Out’s main character—refused to get up on his feet no matter how frenetically I pressed the A and B buttons. Super Referee Mario had counted to ten before declaring Mike Tyson the winner. I think I tried it a few more times, but the results were more or less the same. I don’t even remember making a dent on Tyson’s health bar.

I went back to fight against Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and all those other goofy-looking opponents in the game, while staying the heck away from Mike Tyson until I was prepared for the challenge. But the damage was already done, for some reason the code 007 373 5963 was permanently burned into my brain, and to this day I can still recite this code under any kind of circumstance (and apparently I’m far from being the only guy going through this.)

Probably no one actually memorized their games’ passwords, so everyone simply resorted to scribbled them down anywhere they could, either in some random piece of paper you had at your hand, or maybe (like me) on a special notebook made specifically to write them down (yes, I already was that weird much of a geek by that time).

So, anyway… Why am I bringing all this up?

Well, I think it’s about time to bring passwords back to video games! The younger crowd think they have it all these days with their profiles and their save states, but they’re missing the joy and the versatility of the password system from the old days of video games.

Justing-Bailey
If you don’t know what this password does, you’re missing a lot about video game history.

While you might notice there’s some nostalgia fueling this argument, the main reason for me to suggest the reintroduction of the password system to this video game generation is to complement what the current save states utterly lacks.

First, let’s review some of the pros save states have against passwords

  • There’s no need to write anything down, so there’s no fear of making a mistake while doing so, or losing that piece of paper or any other item you decided to scribble that password down.
  • Passwords length and complexity varied according to how much they saved in a game, that’s why they usually weren’t an option in most RPGs, as their possible length would make them impractical.
  • Also, save states generally save even more data any password could, like statistics, scores, Achievements/Trophies, and other things we’re used to in era of gaming.

No one can deny that save states have made things easier for players to keep their progress. As long as you have memory space and nothing wrong happens to your physical drive, all your games’ progress, settings, and preferences will remain tidy and perfectly available for you anytime you’re up to play.

Except that save states also have its fair share of issues.

  • If it’s gone, it’s gone forever. There are no words to describe the feeling when something bad happens to an important save state; it has happened even to the best of us.
  • While there are ways to take your data with you, they tend to be rather inconvenient. You just don’t know when you should have taken your (updated) memory card with you.
  • And while newer consoles offer the chance of either retrieve your profile from the net or have it stored in the cloud, that not only requires an Internet connection, but also it’s a pain to access to them in someone else’s console (while sharing your account’s password with everyone in the room!)
  • Let’s add to these previous two the fact that many of us just don’t like someone messing with our profiles, settings, or save states.

While the aforementioned cons come at very specific scenarios—like when you’re going to play at someone else’s console, or when you’re inviting friends to play in your console—they still present a nag that the current save state system can’t effectively address, so here’s my take on this subject.

We could have both save states and passwords in videogames!

It would be a hard (pretty much impossible) sell to tell you to ditch the save states in favor of the nostalgic feeling of writing your video game passwords, but in this age we could have both; each one complementing what the other lacks.

Let me explain a few of the scenarios when passwords could be implemented to simplify some of the tedious process of not being able to access your precious profile or save states:

A password to access all your controller settings and preferences.

Oh, I’ve seen this far too many times: people gather around to play a game like Call of Duty, and then they spent like the next 15 minutes or so, just setting up their weapons, before someone starts yelling everyone to hurry up and start the freaking game already!

Call of Duty titles make this task an especially daunting one; there are way too many choices to pick from: perks, main weapon, sidearm, grenades, tactical grenades, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if you could type something like a six-character password and immediately retrieve all your gaming preferences?

Switching controllers with a friend without the hassle

There’s an extra issue when there’s more people than available controllers; once again, either they will have to agree on using the same controller settings, perks, etc. or they will have to change their preferences every time their turn is up, making everyone angry in the process until they finally agree to leave the controller settings that way for the sake of keeping everyone (but you) happy.

And if one of you is playing with inverted controllers, the results could be fatal.

Even fighting games have entered this realm of pre-match settings and preferences. Long gone are the times when you were only required to select a character and start the fight. Now fighting games are introducing even more options into each fighter, like different special move, color, taunt and winning quote (yes, those are a thing!) in Super Street Fighter IV; in Marvel vs Capcom 3, players have to select 3 out of the 50 characters available, select them accordingly to the way you want’em ordered, and an “Assist Type” for each one of them; even the newest Super Smash Bros (for WiiU and 3DS) now offers the option to customize your character’s stats and special attacks.

Super-Smash-Bros-WiiU-Customization
Wouldn’t it be great if could get access to all of these anywhere you played on?

How about having a default, custom, and password option while selecting your characters? That would open (even widening) the range of options available, while simplifying the process. Just imagine it, fighting game pros would have all sort of passwords, and everyone would be trying to decode what do they do, wouldn’t be rad to be in a fighting tournament and someone exclaimed “Wow, the challenger is about to use 3Z1T”?

Ill-HM01-you
Codes are fun! (Image from: http://sharkrobot.com/products/ill-hmo1-you)

Of course applications of a newer password system don’t end there; there are as many applications as you can think of. Passwords in video games are hardly a thing of the past, they’ve just become something else. Just look into Minecraft seeds—digital codes that create specific worlds within the game—on the Internet, and you’ll find all sort of websites and communities made entirely for sharing these codes for everyone to see.

And that’s the main advantage passwords in video games have versus game states; they don’t have portability and accessibility issues profiles have, since you don’t need to carry anything around, and you can always have access to those gaming preferences, customized fighter, or generated world in matter of seconds.

Well, that is as long as you remember where you wrote down that password that is.

I don’t think everyone would carry a note book around, but if only there where some kind of digital device people carried around all the time where you could store or have access to all this information anywhere you were, that would be like the ideal time to have this system in place, right?

Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro

Daniel is an engineer, teacher, and freelance writer and translator. He considers himself blessed to be born during the the times video games were created, and has followed their development as an entertainment and artistic media ever since. He loves talking about video games as much as he enjoys playing them, and he's always ready to introduce gaming culture to a newer audience.

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