It is a common misunderstanding that the culture of digital games is identical with the proprietary digital game software and the game industry. The richness of a media culture comes up with the development of specific ways of appropriation and interpretation of the “consumed” media that can also be subversive. This chapter tries to point out that modding as a specific media (sub)culture goes even beyond the notions of appropriation and interpretation. To understand digital game culture as a whole, we also have to take into account creative practices that manipulate the media consumed. Modding seems to be the prototype for such an engagement with digital media since there are mods available on the WWW for nearly every commercial game. Although it is hard to find another community that manipulates and redistributes its media in such a deep way, modding has been somehow overlooked by academic discourse and thus lacks systematic examination. On that account, this chapter tries to measure the field of modding by giving an outline of some definitions, displaying different (research) layers, and by developing an analytical model for formal mod analysis. Besides the richness of mods in cross-media references, it is argued that modding even has a political dimension because it can also be understood as a way of reclaiming modern folk stories and story worlds.
- Academic Engagement
- Modding Culture
- Cultural Artifact
- Digital Game
- Original Game
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It also seems obvious that every game, digital or not, has a certain framework and a set of rules, without which we cannot really talk of a game at all. This does not necessarily mean that every framework results in a determination (see Unger 2007).
One could also argue that we are dealing with a digital game culture as a whole, which embraces all games and social practices connected with digital games. On the other hand, certain games and the special usage cultures around them could be regarded as game cultures (for example, posting YouTube videos of gamers playing high levels of Guitar Hero: Worldtour songs to show their skill to the community).
See http://www.globalgameport.com/archive/index.php/t-12191.html (accessed 1 August 2011).
See http://drakensang.onlinewelten.com/articles.php?id=6 (accessed 8 August 2011).
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See http://www.moddb.com/mods/third-age-total-war/downloads (accessed 1 August 2011).
See http://www.twcenter.net/forums/downloads.php?do=file&id=1301 (accessed 1 August 2011).
See http://forums.civfanatics.com/downloads.php?do=file&id=1 (accessed 1 August 2011). Since the files are also available on other sites like moddb.com or file sharing sites, the real download numbers are much higher.
User created content.
The game magazine “Game Star” called Fallout: New Vegas a deep bow to the mod community. See http://www.gamestar.de/spiele/fallout-new-vegas/test/fallout_new_vegas,44882,2318592.html (accessed 1 August 2011).
There are indeed some modders who try to get the attention of well-known game studios with their “work samples,” that is, their mods. But, as 16 qualitative interviews with modders have shown, this is only one motivation among others.
While there have been some cease-and-desist orders against some mods like the case of Hasbro against the modder of a GI Joe vehicle pack for Unreal Tournament 2004, it seems a lot of copyright violations are ignored maybe because the field of modding is far to big to be controlled via cease-and-desist orders, or because the profit gained through modding exceeds the losses.
Thus, modding, especially if we look at TCs, can be regarded as a new “user-driven” type of transmedial storytelling in the sense of transforming stories from noninteractive to an interactive medium.
See http://www.moddb.com/events/2010-mod-of-the-year-awards (accessed 8 August 2011).
As a matter of fact, there are also engine mods, but usually, the engine and some other elements of the original game are used as a framework or sandbox to create modifications.
See http://www.moddb.com/mods/goldeneye-source (accessed 1 August 2011).
See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_%28Computerspiel%29 (accessed 10 August 2011).
See http://www.twcenter.net/forums/downloads.php (accessed 1 August 2011).
See http://www.moddb.com/mods/darthmod-shogun-2 (accessed 1 August 2011).
Recognizing key elements of story worlds and transforming them into interactive scripts seems to be a key concept for modding as a form of transmedial storytelling.
I tried to solve this problem by creating team maps, which show who is a member of the team and how far or how close they are to the core team. I made it a rule that the three layers we find in most of the bigger teams should be covered through interviews. This opens up the opportunity to compare the understanding of the project and its meaning for different actor groups. This leads to another problem, namely, that while modding teams are often scattered all over the world, it is barely possible to use face-to-face interviews. In my opinion, interviews via Skype or Team-Speak should be conducted because they are by far closer to a face-to-face communication (especially when using the video option) than e-mail interviews.
See http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=292121 (accessed 1 August 2011).
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Unger, A. (2012). Modding as Part of Game Culture. In: Fromme, J., Unger, A. (eds) Computer Games and New Media Cultures. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2777-9_32
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