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In a gaming scene the word cheese is used to describe strategies or ways of playing that are really powerful and do not require much skill from the players side at the same time. The term is widely used both in video games and tabletop games alike.

It is extremely subjective, there's no strict definition of what is "cheese" and what is not, but that's besides the point.

What are the origins of it? What has cheese to do with "undeserved" victories, cheap strategies, etc.?

  • 5
    I should point out that while a lot of players consider cheesing to be an "undeserved" win, there is a strong community that says if it shouldn't be allowed, the game should be modified to prevent it. The best players are able to get their long-term strategy going while also protecting against cheese rushes, because the leaderboards don't track "win, but with bad manners" or "lost to cheese". They track "win" or "lose". – corsiKa Apr 20 '11 at 19:52
  • I always figured the origin was something wonky like the 1st answer and it stuck because it fit the 2nd answer – user38133 Feb 23 '13 at 6:36
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I'm not sure about the Korean explanation, but it definitely predates the strategy game Starcraft, which was first released in 1998, and was at least five years earlier in beat-'em-up games such as Street Fighter II.

Searching Usenet, I found cheese strategy used on Aug 22, 1993 in alt.games.sf2 in a post called "SF2:HF(Turbo) Ken Strategy Guide".

<=-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.

Here's the cheese strategy involves making simple, easy moves to defeat your opponent. These moves were often described as cheese moves or just cheese.

Another Street Fighter II thread of Dec 6, 1992 in rec.games.video.arcade titled "Cheese glorious Cheese!" includes cheese used a verb and a noun:

But Blanka is pretty much helpless if it is a really good player who has decided to play this way. Cheese the livin' hell out of them. And they're more than welcome to try to cheese back, reason being that the above guy is right about the Blanka-Bison cheese.

A definition was given in alt.games.sf2 on Jun 18, 1992 in "Bison's Cheesepeedo":

"Cheese" is a term used to refer to anything cheap, unfair, or something that is easy to do, does much damage, and requires no skill. For example, some people consider the Ken fireball, fireball, dragon punch combo to be cheese because it can be next to impossible to get out of it (by the way, I do'nt think this combo is cheese). Of course, the magic throw and freeze/handcuffs that two-bit Guile assholes use is BEYOND cheese.

The reason people called the torpedo the "Cheesepedo" (I myself call it the pieceofsh*tpedo) is because it's a dead easy move to execute (takes no skill at all...just yank back on stick and then forward, hitting punch button) and does incredible damage, even when blocked. A no-talent piece of trash playing Champion Edition could (and many do) know nothing about the game and still beat you with the cheesepedo by simply mowing across the screen, back and forth.

Capcom had no brain when they put this stupid, f**king move inthe game. M.Bison "experts" are a bunch of asswipes with no talent.

Nuff said.

Cheese move dates back to at least Apr 6, 1992 in "SF2 TCE Match Ups" in rec.games.video.arcade:

Bison
jumping roundhouse, jab, fierce flame torpedo neckkick, jab, sonic boom with roundhouse VERY CHEESE MOVE: strong flame and throw

The very earliest mention I found of this cheese in any form (although I expect there will be earlier ones) was in "SFII (SFI)", posted to rec.games.video.arcade on Jan 27, 1992:

You couldn't choose your character; if you played on the left, you were Ryu, and if you played on the right, you were Ken. Their abilities were exactly matched, but not as extensive as in SFII... The two-player version was extremely fierce, though, because the game had absolutely no cheese.

Finally, a July 1994 rec.games.video.arcade thread debates "To cheese or not to cheese" and an October 1993 alt.games.sf2 thread discusses the (regional) differences between ticking, cheesing, cheating and cheaping. Perhaps cheese comes from a combination of "cheap" (as in a cheap move), "cheat" and "easy".

  • Very nicely researched. – WillB3 Aug 26 '16 at 20:35
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    Great answer, but I think "cheese" originates from "cheesy", which can mean "Stale, cliched, predictable, cheap-looking and/or lacking in artistic value", particularly when applied to music or paintings. This seems to go back to the 19th century, see english.stackexchange.com/questions/20883/… – Max Williams Sep 27 '16 at 13:32
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    Nice research and I totally agree with your last statement that I think the word cheese does stem from the words "cheap", "cheat", and "easy" in some strange form. I'm imagining someone in a match fumbled their words in a match and said "THAT'S SO CHEASY" and it just kinda stuck. – aug Jun 10 '17 at 18:46
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NOAD gives this definition for cheesy:

cheap, unpleasant, or blatantly inauthentic.

This precisely describes the gaming use of cheese. A cheese strategy is cheap in that it requires little skill, unpleasant in that it basically ruins the game for everyone else, and inauthentic in that it has nothing to do with the normal, intended gameplay.

My sense is that people have been using the noun cheese to convey the same thing for decades at least (though NOAD doesn’t list that under cheese).

I don’t know for sure that the OGN explanation is apocryphal, but I’m skeptical.

  • +1 for the alternate possibility. I've actually looked up both cheese and cheater in the zKorean online dictionary. I could find cheese but the hits for cheater do not match the wiki. The official explanation is still possible though, because Korean and Japanese gamers are fond of creating their jargon inspired by English. – Alain Pannetier Φ Apr 20 '11 at 14:48
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This expression originated in the game Starcraft. You can find the official explanation here.

It comes from... Korean! Or actually English, pronounced the Korean way, and it's a corruption of cheater's strategy.

Here is the full quote:

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]).
The strategy is characterized by, as opposed to a simple bunker rush, a practically unbeatable combination of most of the Terran's SCVs and a very quickly assembled group of marines. Because both Protoss and Zerg basic units are unranged, SCVs can effectively prevent the ranged marines from being destroyed by obstructing the path between the units, giving the marines a tremendous (and thus unfair) edge.

The usage of the term "cheese" has expanded to include most "all-in" strategies which involve a great sacrifice of economy, though some StarCraft communities use the term even more loosely to include mid-game strategies.

  • This explanation doesn't seem really convincing, but I haven't been able to find a better one yet. Probably it is true then. – Sejanus May 28 '11 at 17:10
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Jimmy Maher, of The Digital Antiquarian, (tho in this case only based on his "intuition as a native speaker of American English") wrote in correspondence to me about this question:

It seems to me a fairly obvious derivative of the longstanding American slang of "cheesy," which, when applied to something like a book or movie, means some combination of predictable, trite, manipulative, and intellectually lazy. Think of your typical romantic comedy. ;)

As for me, even growing up playing Street Fighter, Street Fighter 2, and the broad family of similar fighting games in arcades (and roller-skating rinks), 'cheese' is not a term I remember ever using or hearing. And I certainly know exactly the strategies to which the term is applied. I'm pretty sure that among players I encountered we would describe the same thing as 'cheap' or, if we were really upset about losing, 'cheating'.

It's possible the term was unevenly distributed among gamers at that time (early '90s) in the U.S.. I grew up in west-central Florida (roughly around Tampa); maybe it was more common in other regions.

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Perhaps by coincidence by in some of the sonic the hedgehog games it allowed you to play as the character cream. Cream always has a flying companion called named cheese. cream is able to use cheese to damage enemies at rage without putting herself at risk. This leads to boss battles where all you need to do is stand still and press the attack button and literally cheese the boss. I doubt sonic team named cheese that for that reason but a fun coincidence non the less

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    weak - equally applicable to strawberry strategy – JonMark Perry Mar 17 '15 at 7:23
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Cheese also seems to occasionally be used to describe strategies that aren't inherently powerful, but end up becoming powerful due to being unorthodox enough to catch people off guard or leave them at a loss as to how to respond. This usage seems to be particularly common in the League of Legends community, though I'm not sure when it started. This YouTube video shows a good example of this particular usage.

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Cheese is a derivative if the word "cheater". A well known term amongst gamers. Though it can basically go back as far as when games are created, Street Fighter II coined the term. On observant player with knowledge of the game's controls only need look at another person's cheese strategy and adopt it for their own to win. And that's the thing about cheese, the credit can only go to the person who very first utilized the strategy. All the others are copy cats, and their wins do not define their skill as a player, but as a mime.

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    'Cheese is a derivative if the word "cheater"'. Do you have anything to back this up? – Ronan Mar 8 '14 at 12:17
  • Other than picking that up during my gaming days, no. I go a ways back though. Obviously, it isn't a true derivative in the English language. – OgGamer Mar 8 '14 at 19:57

protected by user140086 Oct 30 '16 at 6:44

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