Friday, July 29, 2005

GTA hoolpa - mods maligned again

the wave of negative press for modding reached an all-time high with the recent Grand Theft Auto (GTA) "Hot Coffee" controversy.

for those you haven't heard this story... the developers of GTA San Andreas created an explicit sexual game and put it on the retail DVD. this content is available in all three versions of the game: PC, PS2 and Xbox. the controversy erupted when a hacker discovered the material and released a patch that makes it available to gamers. since the hidden scenes are porn-level explicit, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has changed the game's Mature rating (with a warning for 'Strong Sexual Content') to Adult.

the problem with this situation is that the people who discovered the content have been taking more heat that the guys who developed it, hid it, and then shipped it to millions of people. since it was the PC version of the game that first revealed the erotic game, the hack that allowed the content to be viewed is on par with hacks to any other software package - the fact that this hack was then adapted as a mod for game consoles is not relevant. imagine if someone found a Windows hack that unlocked sexually explicit content. who would take the blame?

this is a quote from a article: "The industry-supported Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) took almost as much heat over the sex-infused mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as the game's publisher. "

this sort of inaccurate language is misleading and harmful. although the publisher would like to blame the modders, they are clearly not to blame for this controversy. news stories should clearly identify the culprits and not contribute to a negative connotation of the modding community.

if you feel that modding is somehow evil, I strongly suggest that you read the July 2005 issue of Wired magazine. the cover of this issue reads "REMIX NOW! the rise of a cut & paste culture." the articles explore topics such as remixing in music, and Quentin Tarantino's habit of "Scene-Stealing."

now that it's clear that modders weren't to blame for this content, maybe the media will be less willing to damage the reputation of the modding community.

here's a Penny Arcade cartoon about the incident and attempted coverup:

"Who owns the words... Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us. Though not all of us know it - yet."
- William Gibson
July 2005 issue of Wired magazine

Friday, July 08, 2005

modding is good

most Halo players are aware that, before the latest patch, Halo 2 cheating was rampant on Xbox Live. recently, modding has been used more frequently by these pathetic individuals. I feel that it's vital to stress that modding is one thing and cheating is another.

it wasn't that long ago that most people who used the word 'hack' were using it in a positive connotation. nowadays, the media has altered the common connotation and most people who use the term are using it in relation to some sort of nefarious activity.

although some have tried to curb this trend (e.g. O'Reilly publishing's 'hacks' series), it seems that most are happy to go on grouping together the innovative with the illegal. the same thing is now happening with the term 'mod.'

it is wrong-headed for anyone to stigmatize modders. for example, many modders from the Doom days are now employed at game development companies. id Software openly encouraged users to create their own 'WADs' for the Doom games and this open atttitude continued through to the Quake series. as a more recent example, the game Counterstrike began it's existence as a Half-Life mod. Counterstrike became a wildly popular game and I heard that Valve Software hired at least one of the modders who created the game. modding is definately a great way to acquire game design skills. I seriously doubt that any game development program would not include some modding.

if you talk to people in the Halo modding community, you will find that most just love the game and are trying to be creative. this sort of creativity is good for the modders, and good for the game.

games that offer the player a creative outlet will offer longevity far beyond those that are static (check out the presentation by Will Wright, about his new game Spore). Spore has the modding aspect built into the game and because of this, it provides the player with a well-rounded game play experience.

so don't allow people to refer to modders in a negative way. if people are breaking the rules, use the right word: cheaters.