mod researchers

Some day in the first half of April 2002 I stumbled over gamemodding and slowly realized that there was more than something in it, legitimizing an anthropological look. Before that I was aware of player-created game-content, as I had played “Descent” (1995) and lots of custom maps for it, but at that time I did in no way associate the thing with anthropology. This completely changed with my first encounter with the Max-Payne community, and since then I every day get more convinced that gamemodding is a relevant and central contemporary issue to be fathomed academically. Back in 2002 I wasn’t able to find any academical publication dealing with gamemodding, but of course some peers already were fascinated by the topic as well, and had started to belabour it. Alas, I was completely unaware of it. Meanwhile some of them have come out of the shadow and it’s time for a roundup. Here are the academics who struggle with gamemodding [in alphabetical order]:

Henry E. Lowood is curator for the History of Science & Technology Collections witin the Stanford University Libraries. Gamemodding is not in the centre of his research focus, but machinima is. In fact he is the founder of, and driving force behind the machinima archive. Machinima and gamemodding are inseparably intertwined—this becomes absolutely clear in his great article “High-performance play: The making of machinima” (Lowood 2006) and the class “The consumer as creator in contemporary media” he taught. See the publications section of his his CV for much more of interest.

Andrew Mactavish is assistant professor for multimedia at McMaster University and director of the latter’s Humanities Media and Computing Centre. Already in April 2002 he delivered a presentation called “Mods, gods, and creative computer gameplay” (abstract) at Playing with the future. This was followed by “Producing players, playing producers, and the cultural politics of digital gaming” (abstract) at Digra 2003, and “Playing with cultural exchange: Digital games and player-created content” (abstract [scroll down a bit]) at ALLC/ACH 2004. As he told me yesterday, he currently is preparing an article based on the mentioned conference presentations.

Sue Morris examines online multiplayer computer game culture. Together with P. David Marshall she edited
M/C journal‘s issue “Game” (M/C journal
3(5)) in the year 2000, but far more importantly she founded Australia’s first all-female
Quake II clan! At Digra 2003 she talked about “WADs, Bots and Mods: Multiplayer FPS games as co-creative media” (
abstract, published as
Morris 2003), this was followed by “Co-creative media: Online multiplayer computer game culture” (
Morris 2004).

Cindy Poremba currently researches documentary and digital games through
Concordia University‘s Doctoral Humanities program. In 2003 she completed her MASc with a thesis called “Player as author: Digital games and agency” (
Poremba 2003)—gamemodding that is ;-) Also interesting in this respect are her articles
“Patches of peace: Tiny signs of agency in digital games” and
“Remaking each other’s dreams: Player authors in games”.

Hector R. Postigo is an assistant professor at the department of communication at the University of Utah. In 2003 his “From Pong to Planet Quake: Post-industrial transitions from leisure to work” (
Postigo 2003) wherein he characterized gamemodding as post-industrial unwaged labour. In 2006, at the
“Association of Internet Researchers Conference” he talked “Of mods and modders: Chasing down the value of fan based digital game modifications”, which will be published in “Digital Games Industries: Work, Knowledge and Consumption” edited by J. Rutter.

Olli Sotamaa seems to be in the last stages of his PhD thesis, discussing player productivity among game cultures and player-centred design. At a PhD course in 2003 he talked about “Computer game modding, intermediality and participatory culture” (Sotamaa 2003). At Digra 2005 “”Have fun working with our product!”: Critical perspectives on computer game mod competitions” (Sotamaa 2005) followed. More of that provenance can be found at his CV.