The troubled morality of modding video games stems from the core of ownership in the industry – mainly the fact that a purchase of a game from a consumer does not equate to full ownership of the assets, but merely a privileged usage of the finished product on behalf of the original developer and publisher. The developer has put in the time and resources in order to fulfill a vision which is then presented to consumers, and is within their right to ensure that this vision is not tampered with and spread online to create a false perception of their game.
But as the old adage goes “all publicity is good publicity” and thus consumers stretching their own creative talents in order to utilize the pre-existing engine and assets should not be seen as a betrayal of the game, but rather an embrace of it. Allowing aspiring developers to use the tools already created by a much larger development studio means that they can focus on game design and storytelling without needing to go through the rigorous process of making their own engine. It allows people to become comfortable with storytelling without needing to commit to their own tools by means of Machinima, where they can create cinematic stories from the comfort of their own computers.
Mods usually come from a place of genuine love from the players, those who want to spend more time in the game world and push its boundaries to its fullest. This can range from QOL (quality of life) enhancements in large complex games such as Skyrim which allow players to have further control over the game’s user interface, or fan translations such as the one for Mother 3, which was spearheaded by a passionate group of fans who just wanted to plan the Japanese-exclusive game in their own native language, and remains the only way to do so. Modder’s put in ample amounts of time into their creations, even working just as hard and creating as quality content as the original creators. But there is a social stigma that what they’re doing is simply for fun and the community feels entitled to their creations free of charge, as there is a disconnect between time committed to creating a project and how the online consumers will eventually consume their creation. Modders can commit entire years of their lives to create a meaningful add-on to a long dormant game with a passionate fan base, but will be unable to be compensated for their work by anything other than faint praise. The compromise for this is that many modders utilize their projects and exposure as a platform to eventually get noticed by a development studio and receive a “real” job developing a game from its inception.
Kücklich, Julian. “Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry.” The Fibreculture Journal, 5
This Spartan Life: Episode 7
Instructor: Carolyn Jong
English 255B – Video Games and/as Literature
18 April 2017
Video Project: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw_IGsNsd7WySXZqLXZTSm92SDg/view?usp=sharing
When told that the final assignment for this class was essentially “Either an essay or literally anything else that’s not an essay” my brain went spiraling in anticipation considering the different ideas I could convey. As a (technically) film student, I really enjoy creating projects that utilize fun and video in any capacity. My eyes drifted over to a 1994 Donkey Kong Country Nintendo Power cassette I acquired at at used book sale for a quarter some odd years ago, and I knew what it was I wanted to create (here’s a link, highly worth your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdJl8MYlRvY).
My goal for this project was to recreate an over-the-type, radically tubular informational video from the 80’s-90’s. I am hoping to identify if it is possible to re-purpose certain aesthetics from the past in the modern age, or if they are such a snapshot of their time that anything created now would simply be a cheap imitation. I chose to focus on the shift from analogue cassette tapes to optical CD’s, as it is an incredibly drastic turning point that seems commonplace nowadays – in fact, we’re on the verge of moving on from CD’s entirely, in favour of blu-ray and entirely digital libraries. Analogue media is so beloved because it is so real; you can hold it in your hands and see the different components moving as they play. There is no question about how it works and your ownership over it, whereas nowadays the line has blurred drastically with content libraries existing solely in streaming or in the cloud. Ownership is glorified borrowing.
Tom Bissel and Matthew Burns’ The Writer Will Do Something is an indie developer’s viewpoint of the process of creating a large triple-A videogame, and how everyone involved views it. The game displays how the intention of the creatives working on the project is to create an entry into the franchise that they can be proud of, whereas the higher ups representing the company are only concerned about its purpose as a commodity. It’s very much an “us vs. them” type tale, where the writer is portrayed as a heroic underdog and the producers are the villainous bureaucrats opposing him. The player is given a slight amount of choice, but in the end it is still the writer’s path that the player will follow. This aids in showing the frivolity of attempting to work in the big studio system, and diminishing a work of art to its core basics as a commodity for profit.
The illusion of choice is given to the player in regards to how they circumvent the branching storylines of the game, when in reality these all lead to the same relative destination. A player is not a player as they lack the control that the developer has, leaving them only as a spectator being guided along the pre-written path. The game loses its identity as a game and becomes lost in its own narrative. Is it necessary for someone to even play this game, or does its existence in general validate its place in the world and the point it is hoping to achieve? Its puropose may very well be justified if it were to be ignored and forgotten, as that is the realistic embodiment of the videogame industry that the developers are hoping to educate about: how artistic endeavours with a message and purpose are overlooked and overshadowed by consumers who choose to pick games that are catered by a large studio to appeal to a general populace.
It does however beg the question of whether this is a realistic portrayal of the videogame production cycle, or the ramblings of two lone developers who may have been burned by the system in the past. While Bissel and Burns are trying to distance themselves from any sort of franchise or brand, their names themselves are the brand, with their names being the only other words proudly displayed on the title screen aside from the title of the game. What also needs to be understand is that without larger corporations churning out AAA, producer-led products and pushing the videogame market into being a multi-billion dollar industry, small independent developers would not be afforded the opportunity to create the games that they wish to. The commodity of videogames are the necessary evil that must be present in order to pave the way for smaller, more thoughtful projects.
Coleman, Sarah and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.” Media Culture & Society 26.6 (2007): 934-953.
Bissel, Tom; Burns, Matthew S.: The Writer Will Do Something. 2015