I’ve realised I haven’t thought critically about Media, and consequence of actions relating to media enterprises/entities much this year. I had a pretty good go in 2015 at looking into Feminist debates in Music, and the ever-so tantalising possibility of a Pavement reunion, but nothing really struck me as less than a ‘black and white’ argument much this year. Maybe I’ve been focussing on other things (ask me about my band), or maybe this year just hasn’t brought up any important debates. Until today….
Gamasutra has been an incredibly useful hive of information, particularly as my Dissertation topic is ‘The Importance/Illusion of Narrative and Choice in Video Games’. Nothing quite grabbed me, and said ‘this is a debatable force’ than the news that South Korea passed an amendment into law with the specific intent of shutting down video game hacks and modifications. At first glance this seems logical; allowing programmers and creators of competitive games to crack down on aimbots, hacking, and other mods that give players an unfair advantage seems fair. Particularly with the rising E-Sports scene, that Korea, Japan, and China are rife with, this only seems fair, and the fact a law permits you from doing it should deter enough people.Violation of the amended law also comes with a hefty penalty; those found guilty could face up to 5 years in jail or roughly $43,000 in fines.
The blurred line here though is, how far is this enforced. Would this mean a complete shutdown of modifications in general? Does this mean non-malicious mods could be caught in the crossfire (excuse the pun)? Any quick look on any Mod-database website brings an excellent selection of changes to gameplay, character models, add-on campaigns, and much much more. Nothing that will advantage any player, but instead change the experience of the game to suit the player. Think the graphics (particularly in older games) are too bad? Character voices annoying, or too bland? Want Eleanor Ripley to accompany you on your quest through Morrowind? Well you can, for now it seems.
The practicality of mods out-weights the dark underbelly. While mods can give you greater skills and kills that aren’t fair to your opponents, some also allow things that programmer specifically don’t want – because it’s taboo, or downright illegal. The Fallout and Elder Scrolls series are the most recognisable for it’s mod choices, but some take it too far. Bethesda have always disallowed the player to kill children, because you know, that’s messed up. But someone modded the game to allows players to do this. The argument being, this is a ‘cutthroat post-apocalypse environment’, and ‘If players want to do this, they have every right to. It’s just a game‘. The pros and cons of this argument is numerous and something that can never really be accepted as truth, or a reason to shy away from taboo problems. Likewise, ‘Stardew Valley‘, a cutesy Farm Simulator that lets you marry other villagers has unwanted mods (for the majority.) A user by the name of ‘randomAnon123’ created a mod that allowed to marry Jas, a 10-11 year old NPC. There’s some many issues with that sentence alone, but much like anything else taken ‘too far’, 4chan replies ‘It’s just a joke’. Whether it is, or just a horrific outlet for certain Internet Degenerates, it just really shouldn’t exist.
‘It’s no surprise that this was born on 4chan. 4chan is a place where you get noticed by doing things that are over-the-top. Otherwise, you sink beneath a sea of fellow anonymous posters. So people test limits, joke about anything they can think of, even if it’s taboo for good reason. Especially if it’s taboo for good reason. It’s a game of winding people up, of maintaining purposeful distance from earnestness or serious feelings.’ – Gamasutra “http://steamed.kotaku.com/the-debate-over-a-stardew-valley-mod-that-lets-you-marr-1775228193”
Of course there are the few that spoil a concept for the many, but there have been some beautiful things to come out of Mods over the years. The now defunct ‘GMod Tower’ mod for Garry’s Mod, an original Mod for Half-Life 2 (ModSeption) brought players together wonderfully. In it’s heyday, the Mod spawned friendships, marriages, and player to player interactions. Everyone on the server was (mostly) respectful and just looking to hang out with whoever they met in the space. It became the most downloaded Mod circa-09, because of how interactive, and accommodating it was. As it was eventually deleted, but turned into it’s own game, Tower Unite, the devs created a video of memories from players. The outpouring of memories of meeting loved-ones, and just generally having a blast is amazing to see, and one of the strongest contenders for why Mods are a great thing. The fact that this built on an already existing Mod is the icing on the cake. Despite being a £6.99 retail game, Garry’s Mod started as a fun Mod for Half-Life and has gone onto being a 1m+ download revenue stream for the creators. Some Mods gain this type of notoriety and become their own entities, and Steam, the main PC game retailer isn’t shy about listening to fans and what they create. Counter-Strike, one of the biggest competitive E-sports games is another Mod from Half-Life that’s spawned its own series. The question here is that, if South Korea really does shut down all Mods, will we ever see something like this again. Developers learn from Mods. Game modes in Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4 have spawned from Mods that up the difficulty. Gamers constantly update old games to make them fresh, and a brand new experience for even the most veteran player.
There’s a lot of joy that comes out of creating mods. Hobbyists, and wannabe programmers alike create something new by changing some of the formula of the game, much like any time an artist covers an older song, but hey, we’re not going to stop that any time soon – Unless you’re Marvin Gaye’s family. What I’m trying to debate here is how important Mods are to the culture, and aesthetic of Video Game culture, to the point where this generation of consoles, Xbox One in particular, demanded that Mods be available on the platform. There’s a desire to have them on every format, and it’s doubtless that desire will burn out soon. Whether a lack of Mods will change gaming is doubtful, seeing as Video Game systems have long gone without that ability. It’s whether the freedom to change your game to suit your needs and desires (no matter how unsavoury that is) is at stake. And if so, who’ll be hit the worst. The industry, the creators, or the users.
What I’m trying to say is, I just want the guards to Shut The F#ck Up.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, I hope you found it interesting, and/or useful. If you have any examples or opinions you’d like to add then please add them below in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond to them.
Thanks again, TRDSR/ThingsILike