Gamers as Creators

Gamers as Creators
A Mod-el for Success

Nick Jewell | 21 Jun 2011 12:29
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Gamers, as individuals, can be very creative game designers and often come up with all sorts of new ideas. Of course, so few people ever act on those ideas. Once you hear the rumors about how competitive the field of videogame development is it's easy to get discouraged. It's almost enough to make you give up and let the existing professionals handle things.

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But what if I told you that there was a way in? An easier way; one that wouldn't cost you a thing? That's right; if you're looking to break into videogame development, there's a way right at your fingertips.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the art of modding.

Mods have been around for years, though console gamers may not be as familiar with them as they are mostly found on PC. Basically, mods are free content that are published by members of the gaming community and, though they can range from purely aesthetic to completely game-altering, none are absolutely necessary to gameplay. (Except maybe in the case of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but we'll get to that later.)

"Now wait just a minute," you may be saying. "That's all well and good, but how does modding get me into the videogame industry?"

I'm glad you asked.

Who developed the last game you played? Was it Valve? BioWare? Epic Games? Whoever it was, the preconceived notion is that your game must have been developed by trained professionals with years of experience. By and large, of course, this is true, but not all of those developers started with big fancy degrees. In fact, some of them started just like you and me, toying with ideas that they wanted to implement in their favorite games.

Look at Minecraft, the videogame industry's latest wunderkind. This is a deceptively simple game, yet it has become a worldwide phenomenon. The lead developer of Minecraft, Markus Persson, announced late in April 2011 that Minecraft would implement official mod support, meaning players could sign up as "mod developers," which would give them a licensing deal with Mojang, including access to Minecraft's source code. These mod developers could then have their creations entered as part of the full version of Minecraft, with an in-game certificate attached to the mod so that everyone would know who designed it. Though the very nature of this proposed API (application programming interface, or how the game would implement mods) has yet to be solidified or even implemented, it has gotten the Minecraft community talking. Being given credit - and possibly being paid - for contributions to Minecraft puts once humble modders just one step away from breaking into the industry. In a way, what Mojang has proposed is a request for freelance development on their game.

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