As a regular Kotaku-goer, I wanted to stay anonymous in order to save face for the amount of hate and anger this article and subsequently myself may be getting for the following. I don’t expect anybody will ever be able to change my mind on the subject, and I apologize for being pretentious enough to ask you to change yours. But I do not think I may remain silent on this matter.
Cowardly? Probably. But it’s my best bet at keeping my integrity on other matters if this one goes south.
I didn’t have a long time to think about this. Three days isn’t exactly a long enough time to think critically about something to look at things objectively. But in the short time I had, the more I thought about the issue of people being charged to access what at one point was a vision-driven, free-to-enter aspect of video gaming, the more I realize something grotesque: I didn’t need to. There are just far, far too many major cons to justify any of the pros, regardless of their quantity.
Modding had been one of the staples of PC gaming. It was that thing nobody could have put a price on. Sure, back in the day before internet, mods would have been sold to people in shady alleys and on scratched discs, but since the dawn of the internet, they had been free to float around on the web. And since that happened, thousands upon thousands of mods were launched across the net, each and every single one of them created by passionate artists who wanted to show off what they could do. Who wanted to indulge others in their ideas. Who wanted to create mods simply because they wanted them to exist. To take the games they love to new heights. To make a great thing better.
With the introduction of modding, each and every single one of those facets of modding will go away. In fact, much of it already has.
Let’s delve into the many ways that paid modding will cause irreparable damage to the last bastion of purity gaming ever had.
It Will Attract the Attention of People Who Want to Mod Solely for Money and Will Take Passionate Modders Who Wanted to Mod for Mere Creation With Them.
This is the biggest issue. A common misconception is that monetary incentive will provide the modding scene with seasoned professionals and ensure large, expansive, quality mods that will continue to see support and updates as long as there’s money on the horizon.
That isn’t true in the slightest.
There are three major problems associated with monetary incentive:
- It’ll attract the bottom of the barrel who It’ll latch onto anything for a quick buck, and it already has.
- The store will be flooded with a multitude of micromods that have no quality control or quality in general, obfuscating any mod worth your time.
- Modders aren’t machines, they’re people. And people are flawed. The Overjustification Effect will reverse-incentivize modders to not care about quality instead of putting more effort into it.
- It’ll result in people actively stealing mods from free sites in order to make a profit off of someone else’s work.
The third one in that list leads to another major problem.
No, they will not. To defend themselves from people ripping off their work and to protect themselves from having to keep reporting people uploading their mods under a different name, modders which have originally intended a mod to be free will be forced to upload it to the Workshop’s storefront with a price tag just to protect their own work.
It’s a move that completely makes sense. What’s the point of altruism if not only is someone actively going to step over you and get all the credit for your hard work, but they are also going to keep doing it over and over again until you’re too exhausted to fight back? Wouldn’t it just be sensible to just put the mod on Steam’s Workshop and sell it where you can keep it safe from others who intend to rip off your work?
And even if you sit back in the sidelines as a person who uploaded their item to Steam for free, how long before you crack under the pressure knowing that you could be making money from this just like everybody else? Nobody sane will actually keep their mods free when there’s somebody else making easy money.
And that leads to another problem.
Has it ever occurred to anyone that gaming has officially become the most expensive past time on the face of the Earth?
Look around. First, you need a computer or a console, each of which will have to be constantly upgraded to keep up with the trend of development. Then, you need to buy a game, which in some cases may or may not run on your rig, or is exclusive to another console. In order to bypass this, you need to buy either a new computer part, laptop, or console, just to get the game you want to play. On top of which, much of the game’s content is locked behind a paywall, and many of the promised features have been removed, either because the marketing campaign was overhyping or because they can later charge it to you under the form of DLC. And there’s tonnes of DLC, each ranging from $5 to $35 apiece, and that’s not to say any thing about the game also incorporating microtransactions, which have long since all but replaced cheat codes. On top of which, both you and your friend need to have the same DLC if you want to play together, and to play together you need to be connected to the internet, which costs money. But if you want access to your own internet connection, you need to pay a toll subscription to console manufacturers for whatever reason possessed them.
The fact that all this seems normal to a shockingly high amount of people is enough to make me weep. It never used to be like this. Half the cost of everything is artificially implanted in a large number of games solely to milk money from the customer, and everybody is actually okay with it.
The only thing that we haven’t been charged for constantly as of yet were mods. That was the last aspect of gaming we didn’t need to pay to get to enjoy our game. They existed their for the player, not their wallet. That’s not the case anymore.
The worst part is, while modding was the last good thing about gaming, losing it to a paywall is only the beginning of our troubles. It’s only a matter of time before mods start getting online DRM which would result in gimping our game, and only a matter of time before we get exclusive mods hidden behind preorders. Even worse...
Who’s to stop other storefronts selling the same game from getting in on the action? And what happens when they all start fighting over who gets what mod? This may seem like the article has completely gone off the rails and that there’s no way such a thing could have happened.
They said exactly the same thing about on-disc DLC and microtransactions, and paid modding.
And this is already happening. Many modders are pulling their mods from the Nexus to sell it on Steam, which in the future would deny people who don’t even use the platform from ever being able to get access to those mods, especially if they own a DRM free version of a game, such as Torchlight 2. The only solution there would be to repurchase the same game too have access to that platform’s select mods, only to find out it’s incompatible with the version of the game that comes from a different platform, preventing you from putting your mods together any way you like.
I’d like to say that I’m a modder. If you consider putting together a few files and uploading them to the Workshop a proper modder, I am. But I can’t compete with the likes of people who throw together entire models and animations, game-changing mechanics and new maps, even though I was just getting into that scene. “Compete” is the operative term.
Back in the good old days before paid modding was even a thing it was shockingly difficult to get people to explain to me how to go about doing something such as incorporating my new model into a Source Engine game, a question that still hasn’t been answered and will remain unanswered, now that many other modders will likely see me as competition instead of one of them.
The thing is, yes, I did read everything there was to read about implementing a file into the Source engine, and there may be more tutorials in the future, but like any tutorial, people are bound to run into problems. Version incompatibility, a missed step, et cetera. These are questions that will no longer be answered when they are asked, because if it was tough before, it’s pretty much going to be impossible, now. Speaking with modders will no longer be a learning experience, it will be a battlefield. It already is one.
And by and large, this is probably the most painful one.
What was once an incredible display of people coming together to create something because they envisioned it and wanted it to be experienced will be just a shell of its former self, a pricetag that will ultimately leave every time you set foot into another mod hollow. Above all else, knowing that you’re playing a product instead of a game makes the entire world your avatar sets foot in completely inhuman, replaced by a sick and twisted void that will always and forever feel like it exists solely to take your money from you.
By the end of it all, we’ll no longer be playing games. We’ll merely be buying products.