Video game modifications, or mods, are alterations made to a game by a user, which can change how it works or looks in ways that would not be possible in the normal version. This activity has been contested by many as a grey area, and the motives of those that develop mods, modders, have also been questioned. The study “Heroes and Hooligans: The Heterogeneity of Video Game Modders” by Joanna Curtis, Gavin Oxburgh, and Pam Briggs examined how modders are viewed and talked about by internet communities.
Four main types of comments about modders were identified. Firstly, their work was considered justifiable by some because of a subpar or unfair market: the actions and products of developers and publishers could be seen as poor or even malicious, whereas modders would often improve upon an original product, even for free. Modders may salvage a game whose official support has ended or eliminate unwanted aspects altogether. However, the second comment type saw the modders as evil. Mods created by them can be used to ruin online games, leading to unfair advantages against others. For example, in Grand Theft Auto Online, mods allow cheating, and the words “modding” and “cheating” are often used interchangeably in discussion.
Unlike the previous two types, the third comment category showed some nuance in how modders were discussed. Instead of making generalizations, some commenters noted that there are many kinds of modders. Some related aspects were also discussed: modding communities, where several users collaborate and aid each other, as well as the importance of reputation, which can quickly affect the popularity of mods. The fourth and final comment type was about modders as victims. Popular modders see harassment, for example by being demanded to help others. Mods are also used in self-defense in some online games where others are also using mods that can harm others’ experiences.
The results of the study showed that the role of modders is often generalized in the discussion, which doesn’t take into account how many different motives and mods across a variety of games there are. Those who used or created mods were more positive towards them than those who did not.
Reddit comments were used as data for the study. Threads and comments were picked from subreddits of popular games that can be modded, such as Grand Theft Auto Online, Fallout 4, and Skyrim. Thematic analysis was then conducted: codes were assigned to comments, which helped divide them into themes and sub-themes. The limitations of the study included Reddit’s social norms and rules. It was also noted that the platform and data choices may have affected the results: The Reddit community of Grand Theft Auto Online had a negative view of modders due to how mods affect their online experience.
Source: Curtis, J., Oxburgh, G., & Briggs, P. (2022). Heroes and Hooligans: The Heterogeneity of Video Game Modders. Games and Culture, 17(2), 219–243. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120211026255
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