Have you or someone you know lost a match to someone using a simple, yet lethal strategy? Don’t worry, you are not alone; there is a term for what happened. You have been a victim of “cheesing.” Cheesing, or a “cheese strategy,” is a move or strategy that is extremely powerful, yet requires little to no skill on the player’s side.
I first encountered cheesing playing Starcraft: Brood War online against Protoss players. The Protoss have an ability to run a worker Probe over to your base, build a Pylon, then build a bunch of cannons, walling you into your own base. Once this process starts, it is almost impossible to get back from under this disadvantage, even for professional players.
Even if you don’t play Starcraft, you can tell: this is brutal. Keep in mind, these are two professional players, and soO knows that PartinG is known as the “Joker Super Villain” of the Starcraft 2 community for using out-of-this-world strategies to win matches. A cannon rush usually looks more like this:
Many people consider the Protoss cannon rush the quintessential cheese strategy, but where does the term come from? I did some research into the history of cheesing and found some varying theories and information.
Because of cheesing’s strong connection to the Starcraft series, I found some information referencing a broadcast from 2009 to the supposed origins of the term on Liquidpedia.
“During a broadcast game on September 16, 2009, OGN commentator Um Jae Kyung (엄재경) briefly discussed the difference between a bunker rush and a “cheese” rush. According to his explanation, the term “cheese” originated from the word “cheater’s” (words in Korean are sometimes shortened by the middle syllables, so 치터즈 [chi tuh zu] would become 치즈 [chi zu]).”
This theory sounds plausible until I did a bit more searching. There were earlier references to cheesing in 1992 and 1993 in threads and game guides preserved by Google Groups discussing strategies in Street Fighter 2. There is an entire thread dedicated to the history of cheesing on Stack Exchange, with links to various references. While there are some threads between people discussing cheesing, there is a comprehensive Street Fighter 2 player guide time-stamped with the writer’s name that also makes reference in one section to cheesing. You can take a look for yourself in the Google Group here:
“Zangief: He cheats a lot. You will get tough breaks every once in a while in this fight, so bear (heh) with it. The cheese strategy is just to use straight up and down Roundhouse kicks, or if you are in the corner, jump back and use Roundhouse, then sweep/FB or DP when you land.”
This implies that the writer, Caine Schneider, was familiar with the term when writing the guide, which was published in August 1993. Where Caine heard this term is unknown, as the internet was still in its infancy at that time. Maybe they were aware of these threads happening in 1992 and picked the term up there. Maybe the term did originate from the Korean word for “cheater” turning to “cheeser” and then made its way to English speakers who embraced the term into their gaming vocabulary. Either way, game developers were aware of cheesing from Street Fighter 2 as Atari made a fighter game in 1994, Primal Rage that actually had a ‘no cheese’ filter. If a player spammed too many of the same move in a row, a “no cheese” icon would appear on-screen and make the spammed move deal no damage for a period of time.
Caine’s description of this strategy is also familiar to Smash players despite being almost 30 years old. In Smash, once your opponent is hit by a move, the repetitive use of that move will deal increasingly less damage. This feature is a counterbalance to certain characters who can trap opponents in a cycle of fast kicks or jabs that are hard to break out of once hit.
Cheesing in tournaments where prize money is on the line has cost streamer Woox $10,000 in prize money during a Runescape Deadman mode, a ‘last man standing’ player vs player competition hosted by Jagex.
Instead of fighting other players and waiting for the death fog to roll in, Woox found a hiding spot and kept eating lobster meat to replenish his HP as the death fog rolled in and eliminated all the other players. This caused some drama, and though Woox was technically the last man standing, the organizers decided to disqualify him from the $10,000 prize money because he didn’t play the competition as intended.
We may never know where the term cheese first came from, but it is here to stay, stinking up your games with annoying strategies that make you scream FML at the screen. What we do know is that if you are aware of cheese strategies, you can usually outmaneuver them as long as you know what you’re up against.