Mar 03 2014

My Love Hate Relationship with Mods in Video Games

Published by at 10:00 am under Editorials,Video Games

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Mods are one of the huge perks of playing in the PC. One of the factors that influenced me to build my own PC was the fact that I could mod some of my favorite games. When you’re playing on a console, you’re simply playing the game the way it was intended by the developers. The way I see it, mods are like the equivalent of a fan fiction since fans can expand on something that already existed.  Sometimes it adds substantial content to a video game, but there are times when you simply have Thomas the Train’s skin used for Skyrim’s dragons.

There are also mods that actually improve a game by adding more features or fixing bugs that developers have ignored. I imagine that some developers support the idea of mods because it makes people enjoy their game more. At the same time, I could definitely see others who would object to it because it alters a game’s creative vision. It’s not a stretch to imagine that someone’s ego would be bruised if people wanted to “alter” their work.

Read on for my take on mods and why I have a love-hate relationship with it.

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To be honest, the only game I use mods for is The Sims. From time to time, I like getting clothes and skins online but not too much. The ones I use actually use improve the gameplay a lot. For example, I really love The Story Progression feature wherein the whole world is dynamic and sims outside your household have lives on your own. Previously, the only family that ages, gets married, and experiences all the life events is the one you primarily control. SP was a great addition, but it still had so much inherent flaws like the fact it takes so long for a married couple to have a baby or they rarely have one so everyone in the neighborhood just grows old. Someone actually made a mod that altered the likelihood of life events so that it was more realistic and you would have a balanced town.

Two other excellent examples would have to be Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines (I am a huge fan of both). These two are arguably considered flawed gems since both cultivated a cult following in spite of frustrating bugs and cut content. What did fans do? Well, they created mods that added more content and actually fixed the bugs. It’s actually impressive and it goes to show that mods can be constructive to the game technically speaking.

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Mods not only improve a game, but they can also extend it. Developers have a limit to what they can produce for a video game because DLCs don’t just grow from trees. This is bad news especially when you’re totally in love with a game and you’re not ready to let go of it. I know I wept when Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 came out. Like fan fic writers, mods are a way to experience and a video game world through a fresh perspective after you’ve done all the quests out there.

The DLC mod Falskaar for Skyrim was made by a high school student and featured new quests for players. Other games like Dragon Age have mods for new quests as well. The developers behind these games obviously know about how gamers use their products, so it makes sense that they would release creation kits to help it grow. I guess they find it helpful too because gamers would fix their game’s problems for free and won’t complain about it. In addition, they can also extend its longevity if they make awesome mods that gets featured on numerous websites.

So, I’ve been talking a lot about the good side of mods. Where’s the hate in the relationship? Well, I was actually opposed to the whole idea of mods before. Mods could make your game crash and if there was a new update sometimes things are going to be screwed up unless the mod creator released a patch that was compatible with the latest updates. This doesn’t happen as often now, but it still is a problem for me at times. I like the convenience of Origin or Steam automatically downloading things for me so I don’t have to worry.

While there awesome mods out there, you would have to wade through a bunch of mediocre ones to find stuff you actually like. It can become a time consuming task especially when it’s a popular video game community. However, I guess the biggest bulk of my “hate” would have to be the fact that it alters the game’s original vision.

People are free to do whatever they want. Users can create mods if they wish, and I have the right to choose not to. I actually have never used a mod for Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Grand Theft Auto games on the PC. I guess it’s just the “artist” in me that feels this way. When I experience a movie, video game, or any piece of art, I want to understand what the creator is trying to convey not what gamers interpret. It could also come from a purist angle wherein I prefer to experience it “untouched” if that makes any sense.

I’ve been more receptive to mods quite recently just to try it out, but I keep it minimal and remove them right away after I’m done with it. How about you? How do you feel about mods?





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7 responses so far

  • JC LOISEAU

    A great mod not listed above is the elite mod in Warhammer DOW2: Retribution.
    As rumors already spread that THQ was going down, Faithfull players of the game took upon themselves to do what THQ didn’t have the resources of doing as they went bankrupt: they added new units, a whole new race, perfected the balance, added maps, change tooltip descriptions, fixed bugs, etc. etc. etc.
    The Elite mod is (obviously) free but it feels like a complete upgrade to the existing game.
    Because of this mod, the DOW community lives on.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    Who are we to play God? Nah, user created content is great and one thing PC gamers will always have over console folk. What is that one at the top? Skyrim of the Colossus?

  • Alec

    Mods are one of the main reasons I game on PC’s rather than consoles. Consider, games which give a player choice and let them feel in control of their environment and destiny tend to be the most popular, and mods often help with that.

    Now, I do think there’s something to be said for playing through a game the first time with few or no mods, but after that you know what the game is about and what aspects of you it want more of and which you could do without.

    I absolutely love Mass Effect 2. But after the first run through I quickly discovered that one part of it I detest is having to scan planets for resources. I find it mindless, boring, time-consuming, and takes away from my joy of the game by disrupting an otherwise great pace. So I downloaded a mod that lets me skip scanning. Because of that my enjoyment of the game increases and I’m more likely to play it again. Hard to see how that can be wrong, and that’s just a fairly small mod.

    I appreciate your idea of respecting the artistic vision. But while I agree games can be a form of art/storytelling, I wouldn’t say they are same as books, paintings, or movies. The interactivity and user control aspects are singular to video games; mods are in a way an extension of that. I don’t think modding a game is the same as rewriting a couple pages of a story or painting over a piece of art.

    Good article!

  • Mike Green

    You guys are pretty big fans of Pokemon I’ve noticed, have you checked out Pixelmon for Minecraft? It’s as awesome as it sounds.

  • daveyJ1

    Skyrim lacked some very basic things on PC, and mods improve the game dramatically. Things like a better, PC optimized menu for example, you can’t really say that goes against the artist’s vision. It depends how purist you are of course, but there are enough mods, like the ENB graphics enhancers, that don’t influence the artist’s vision. They enhance it. Skyrim’s graphics were just not that good, but the world has a wonderful design and graphics mods emphasize this. Being a purist that about stuff like stuff like this sounds more like a mod phobia.

  • Vonter

    Well mods are like the modern day “cheats”, you can either use them to breeze through a game and fooling around with physics or assets like it was with the game shark or game genie.

    I think the main issue (and I suppose since I don’t play online) is that it could be detrimental to online games. I mean Smash Brawl wasn’t a competitive game but people hammered down that it should be and it has become accepted to play that game competitively through the Project M mod or others. That’s were I draw the line since its essentially taking a game from the game creators hands and vision. Also imposing a system that wasn’t conceived that way by the original creators.

  • http://www.nogunarmy.com/ monstrinho

    VTM:B is my all time favourite game. which might say uncomfortable things about me now that i think about it.

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