Mountain climbing is an activity that can be done many ways.
Mountaineers may employ sherpas to assist, or they can choose to climb only with other mountaineers. They may set up base camps at which they have large amounts of supplies, or they may simply climb steadily, carrying a meager stock of supplies that must last the whole trip.
The list of optional equipment a mountaineer may employ is also pretty long - supplemental oxygen, crampons, ice axes, tents, high-tech thermal body suits, etc.
Sometimes mountaineers and enthusiasts complain that other mountaineers are cheating due to the techniques they employ or the equipment choices they make. They feel the climb should be equally hard for all, and those who employ special gear to lighten the task are cheaters, not worthy of sharing the title of mountaineer.
In this respect Atari 2600 programming is like Mountain Climbing.
The modern 2600 game coder has a lot of choices to make. There are well over a dozen different cartridge configurations to choose from, most with additional ROM via bankswitching, some with additional RAM, and yet others with additional processing like the Activision DPC boards or Melody boards with DPC+.
Coders even have a choice of coding in pure assembly language, or batari Basic.
And it doesn't end there.
Both bB and assembly coders must choose between using Other People's Code, or writing their own. OPC for bB coders means using built-in libraries and kernels. OPC for assembly coders means using key routines that have been passed from hand to hand, posted on mailing lists and forums.
And for those that choose to write their own code, rather than using OPC, can use undocumented 6507 instructions that weren't widely used historically, or work only with the official instructions. Similarly, they can use techniques that have been learned and documented in the era of the 2600 homebrew, or keep their techniques strictly to those documented in the Stella programming documentation.
With all these choices, it's not a surprise that someone, somewhere, regularly declares that using one technique or another is a cheat. And, to use the analogy, often the person making the complaint isn't even climbing up the mountain with just his own two hands.
where's the top of your mountain?
If you're a 2600 game coder and your primary goal isn't "make a great game", then I'm respectfully going to suggest you should consider coding demos instead. Coding demos can prove your technical chops just as well as coding a game, without foisting yet another poor-to-average game on the 2600 library.
If you want to have a secondary goal of constraining your choices, then by all means go for it! Just don't cry foul when someone else doesn't share your secondary goal. Why should they?
Some of us just want to get to the top and enjoy the view.