When confronted with an obstacle, we have two possible responses: We can wonder, "Why?" or we can wonder, "What if?" The two are related, but only one is forward-thinking.
The forward-thinking choice, in games, has prompted the exploration of the next frontier in interactive entertainment - player created content. Since game development became a professional endeavor, players have become used to interacting with the finished product. In fact, many of today's gamers have never been even the slightest bit involved in the actual construction of a game.
However, times are changing. Whether through "modding" games, creating content in a "virtual sandbox" style game, or even interacting with developers during game development, gamers are becoming more and more important to the Process of game-making.
It's a fact of life that nearly anything a human can get his hands on will likely be taken apart at some point. He does this to better understand how the Thing works. And when he puts the Thing back together (if he is able to at all), he inevitably does so in a way that improves his life - whether for convenience or entertainment. It is instinctual.
It is this ability to adapt ourselves and the world around us which has produced the great things in human history, both the terrible and the wonderful. Is it really any surprise we do this with games, the first truly interactive entertainment medium? We change the games to better meet our individual needs, whatever those needs may be.
This deep desire to modify our surroundings, coupled with the ease and speed of communication on the internet, fosters a small but important subculture in the gaming world. A large majority of gamers will buy a game, play it in its released form and never think to change it. But there are always a few who ask "What if?"
It's a double-edged sword, though. Are we ready for this kind of interactivity? Are we ready for this kind of power? Who is accountable? What is allowed? When is this kind of modification OK? These questions are a natural response to the relatively new issue of player created content. Now, we just need to find the answers.
This is the point in the evolution of the movement of player created content at which we find ourselves. And these are certainly valid questions needing to be addressed before we can move forward in the most useful and positive way. But let's not get too bogged down in the, "Who?" "What?" "When?" "Where?" "Why?" so as to lose the forward-thinking "What if?"
In doing our part to not lose the "What if?" we have invited several of our writers to discuss this topic of player created content. Allen Varney and Kyle Orland discuss personal experiences with player created content, Allen, from the designer's perspective, and Kyle, from the player's perspective. Dave Thomas discusses the freedom a gameworld provides, and how Second Life's world is the ultimate playground. Along the lines of ultimate fun, Jim Rossignol discusses one of the most masterful mods we have ever encountered, Garry's Mod for Half-Life. Find these pieces, and more, within this issue of The Escapist and let yourself wonder "What if?"