Mia Consalvo, a game academic at Ohio State University, interviewed dozens of players about their attitudes -- which she'll publish in the book, Cheating, this summer -- and found that we cluster into a couple of loose groups, each with a different ethical vision.For me, it depends on the game and what it is about the game that I enjoy most. If I enjoy mucking about and discovering things on my own, I won't consult a guide. If I want to get onto the next bit and don't particularly enjoy this bit, I will consult a guide. If I enjoy a particular aspect of the game and its possible to enhance that with a hack, then I might use the hack.
A small hardcore group are die-hard purists, like my friend. They don't use any cheats or guides, because they consider it "cheating yourself" of the subtle pleasure of getting stuck in a game -- then suddenly spying the way out.
The next group is the walkthrough folks, like me. We regard guides as a form of travel literature; I'd never have located all the cool, secret areas in Final Fantasy XII without a FAQ. (In contrast, the hardcore crowd seems to relish the idea that they'll miss out on stuff, because it's part of the mystery of game.) But I almost never use cheats or manipulations of code to grant myself "unearned" power. I like the idea that if I'm born into this virtual world, I'll abide by the fictions that govern its reality.
Then there's the final group of gamers -- the "by any means necessary" crowd, as it were. Like the ancient gnostics, or like Morpheus in The Matrix, they know the world around them is just code -- and the fun is not in obeying it but mucking with it. Single-player worlds are toys, to be hacked with any available Easter eggs, exploits or hardware mods; you can't have the truly l33t experiences if you're not tricked out with sick amounts of weaponry and skillz.
From this view, cheating a single-player game isn't possible because, as one interviewee told Consalvo, "you can't cheat a Gamecube -- you can only cheat another player." If part of the goal in a narrative game is to finish the story, what's wrong with using any tool at hand to do so?
There you go.