To Mod or Not To Mod? That Is The Question

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous User Interfaces meant for consoles and not PCs,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of overlooked bugs,
And by modding, end them?

Okay, enough bastardising the bard’s (the Stratford one) works for my own gain.

What I’m trying to ask is: as players, should we add mods to what we play? And, as designers, should we design our games to be expanded by user generated content?

Downloadable Content and User Generated Content are an interesting and unique trait that games have that other mediums generally don’t; can we take advantage if that? I’m not aware of a publicly accepted method of adding viewer content into West Side Story, or Citizen Kane; or of communities of art gallery patrons developing their own optional additions or modifications to Starry Night to load into their digitally downloaded pieces. Yes, there are artists who mimic other artists in both games, art, film, and literature; but these are artistic homages rather than user generated content or DLC. But what if JJ Abrams allowed a mod for removing lense flares? Would Star Trek (Paramount Pictures, 2009) have been a better film?

I think mods are awesome; at least as a concept. Mods allow hobbyist and aspiring developers/designers to generate their own content for a pre-existing game and distribute it to other users. These mods can be anything, ranging from content mods like new quests or items to unofficial patches fixing numerous bugs.

I don’t personally use mods very often. The only games I’ve really installed third-party content on is Microsoft Flight Simulator: X (ACES Studio/Microsoft Studios, 2006), Kerbal Space Program (Squad, 2015), and Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011). It’s not because of a moral opposition to mods though; not a lot of mods really appeal too much to me as a player. I’ve used things like SkyUI, or added non-stock planes and parts to FSX and KSP respectively.

For many players, mods genuinely enhance player experience; and often not from a disdain for the vanilla systems but as a display of love for the games. Not only do players want to play the game, they want to keep playing and contributing and playing and loving. In reality, if a game is comprehensively poor who would contribute to it at all?

In summary, I think its important for us as game designers to remember that games are for the player, and developing and adding mods extend their experience; often for better, some times for worse. My suggestion for players: don’t dismiss the vanilla versions; it might be your favourite flavour.

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