When a little known, two-year-old game appeared on the best-seller list on Steam in 2012, it caught some eyes. ARMA 2 was relatively well received on its release in 2010, but with advancing technologies and competing programs, games generally do not survive as a best seller for two years. The reason for this resurgence in popularity was the release of Day Z, a zombie survival game that was created as a modification of ARMA 2. So, to play Day Z, players needed the original game. Hence the bump in sales, even after two years.
This is an example of the effect of modding, now a common practice in gaming fandom, and one which is largely supported by the games industry. There is a whole area on Steam, Valve’s gaming portal and the largest Digital Rights Manager (DRM) on the web, dedicated to mods. Through Steam Workshop, users can download mods for many of the games on the site, thus extending the shelf life of their existing games. This is not the only space for mods, but it exemplifies the importance of consumer-created mods to the industry at large. (It should be noted here that Valve is itself a modding success story; their initial success and break into the industry was the game Half Life, which was built as a licensed mod of id games’ Quake 3D engine.)
So rather than punish users for infringing on copyright or breaking into game code to change their products, the industry welcomes the phenomenon of user creation, as it elongates the shelf-life of their games. This is in line with the idea of media convergence put forward by Henry Jenkins among others, who theorises on the fan’s role as a content producer. An article on Brazilian modding subcultures argues that ‘the fan’s creativity and intense interaction with cultural objects are capable of allowing her to create new productions as a tribute to the “original” product. Cultural appropriations by fans are then considered as a kind of symbolic capital in the participatory culture: a feature of the contemporary media convergence period.’
Kücklich, Julian. “Precarious Playbour: Modders And The Digital Games Industry”. Five.Fibreculturejournal.Org, 2017, http://five.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-025-precarious-playbour-modders-and-the-digital-games-industry/. Accessed on 10/4/17.
“Everything You Need To Know About Halo 5 | Gamestm – Official Website”. Gamestm – Official Website, 2017, https://www.gamestm.co.uk/features/everything-you-need-to-know-about-halo-5/. Accessed on 10/4/17.
“Tribute And Resistance: Participation And Affective Engagement In Brazilian Fangame Makers And Modders’ Subsultures “. Gamejournal.It, 2017, http://www.gamejournal.it/3_oliveira_et-al/. Accessed on 11/4/17.
Poor, Nathaniel. “Computer Game Modders’ Motivations And Sense Of Community: A Mixed-Methods Approach”. New Media & Society, vol 16, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1249-1267. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1461444813504266.