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Video Game Dictionary: Cheesing

Game Terminology Explained : Cheesing – ‘To Cheese’

You might have heard of someone “cheesing” the competition or “cheesing” a boss. But where does “cheesing” come from?

Well, the term originated in the late 1800s US to mean something was cheap (in a bad way). It then cropped up at a similar time in the UK, where it meant fine or showy, but that’s linked more closely with the current term “cheesy” like we’d use when talking about a tacky or clichéd film.

After lying fairly dormant for a century, the term suddenly started to gain popularity again in the most unlikely of places…. Street Fighter 2.

In this meaning, which still continues today, it means to abuse mechanisms or powerful characters to easily pass a fight. It’s not always derogatory but does carry a negative connotation of exploiting unfair mechanics.

One of the earliest online discussions of the term was from 1992 on the forum Usenet, where it was defined as doing something that is easy to do, but does lots of damage, in a somewhat unfair way. You can see where that 1800s definition ties back in. Cheap now means easy or lazy, compared with the earlier definition of low quality.

The term has, if anything, grown in popularity since then. It often comes up with games like Elden Ring/Dark Souls, where players may exploit an easy way to defeat a boss that doesn’t feel like it intended by the designers. It’s also used regularly in games like Dota 2, with Valve even adding a Cheese Item to the original Dota back in 2004.

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