A worthy model to explore

Published 7:01 pm Saturday, May 2, 2015

There’s a lot of talk lately about modding, the action of changing or creating a feature within an already existing game.

Some people may not be aware how developer Bethesda recently partnered with Valve, the company behind the popular online game store Steam, to allow “Skyrim” modders to sell their wares. In theory, it was a good idea for dedicated gamers to get credit (and money) for their contributions to one of the most popular games of our time.

That’s not how many people received the news, however. Modding has long been a proud tradition between game enthusiasts who create free content and spread it around the Internet. Many gamers took the recent mod sale as an affront. Due to the overwhelming negative response, Valve shut the Steam Workshop down in less than a week and offered refunds for people who bought mods.

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Though the Valve model was imperfect, this is a good concept to explore. People who create content and want to get paid for it should get a little money. People who want content to be free should make it free.

Modding or cheating out a game can be a lot of fun. I remember playing “Final Fantasy 8” using a GameShark code from my friend that granted Squall, the main protagonist, maximum stats. It was a blast from my point of view, and it made the game a lot more fun because I could concentrate on the at-times complicated plot.

There’s also plenty of examples of mods that vastly improve a game through absurd circumstances. I love the infamous “Skyrim” mod that turns dragons into the Macho Man Randy Savage, or the recent “Grand Theft Auto 5” mod that randomly drops humpback whales onto city streets. Try speeding away from the cops with a whale in your way!

Though I’m not sure I would ever pay to use those mods, I’m glad there were people creative enough to build and distribute them for others to use.

It’s not as though companies encourage modding, however. Few businesses like it when someone tries to build and distribute products based on their intellectual properties.

Yet here was an opportunity for the average person to not only have a company’s blessing to mess with its property, but make a little money doing it. That’s an incredible opportunity for amateur game designers and artists to show their creativity, hone their skills and explore a potential career in the games industry. It’s a decent way to encourage video game development and build a budding pool of potential industry employees.

Many gamers were more concerned about protecting the free nature of modding, the free exchange of ideas. They were right to point out several negative factors about Valve’s Steam model: There were little consumer protections if a mod broke a game, there was no way to hold creators or companies accountable for their work and one high-profile case showed a mod that piggybacked off of another modder’s work.

Yet Valve should reconsider another mod store down the road. This is a good idea, just a poor execution. Hopefully, companies like Valve learn from this debacle and build a better mod model soon.