[Video Games 101] What Are Mods and Should My Kids Be Downloading Them?

Posted by | August 04, 2015 | Tips for Parents | One Comment
mods

This post is part of a series that addresses the needs of the parent who “just doesn’t get video games.” I’m here to catch you up, Clueless Parent!

If your kids are playing games on a computer, you may have heard them talking about mods. You may even have heard about some of the less kid-friendly mods that make characters naked or add other unsavory content. Besides all this, these mods have to be downloaded, which can be stressful for anyone, let alone a concerned parent. Here’s the scoop on mods.

What Does Mod Mean?

Mod is short for modification. That simple definition is completely appropriate in this case. Mods are created when someone, usually a player, takes the basic code or structure of the game and changes it. These changes can range from simple things like changing the color of something to a completely new game made within the game world. Modding tools have been around since the mid-80s, but they’ve grown in popularity over the years.

How Do Players Make Mods?

It really depends on the game. Lots of PC game developers have included tools within the game for players to create mods. They see this as a way to grow the community for their games and encourage players to play for an extended period of time with all the new mods available. Some popular game makers like Bethesda, Blizzard, and Valve have taken advantage of this trend. The long-running game franchise known as The Elder Scrolls has had multiple releases that have the Elder Scrolls Construction Set, which enables players to make massive changes to anything in the game. The Valve Hammer Editor can be used to create maps in the Half-Life games.

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This mod for Grand Theft Auto V had whales falling from the sky.

Why Do Players Make Mods?

For many reasons. Some simply want to change inconsequential elements like the colors of the world or armor. Others don’t like how a certain mechanic works within the game and make a mod to create a play style that they like better. Others like to build new levels or create new quests within the game. The biggest mod is where players take the original game and create an entirely new game within it. The most famous of these have been Counter-Strike and Defense of the Ancients.

How Do People Get Mods?

Most players who use these tools distribute their mods free for download to anybody that wants them. There are often sites created by prolific modders for a specific game where lots of players post their mods. In April 2015, Steam, the foremost place to buy and download PC games, allowed players to charge for mods made to Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Skyrim game. This decision was met with with a lot of community backlash. Steam quickly removed that feature from the store.

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This mod for The Elder Scrolls Skyrim replaced the dragons with My Little Ponies

Are There Any Dangers to Downloading Mods?

Just as with anything else on the Internet, downloading a file carries some risk. Downloading mods from large community sites is usually best, as the players will quickly let others know if the mod contains spyware or other malicious software. Besides that general risk, there is a risk that installing a mod will essentially “break” a game, making it unplayable. The player then would likely have to uninstall not only the mod, but the entire game, and then reinstall the game. This can take a considerable amount of time and risks losing some progress in the game.

Mods As Practice for a Job

Players who become proficient at making mods are teaching themselves a lot of aspects of coding and making games. If your kid is interested in a career in games, trying to mod a game is a great way to gain experience. Some game companies actually ask potential employees to make a mod using one of their tools as a test to get a job. Mods are also a great way to enhance creativity in a number of ways, including art and storytelling. If your kids are making mods, talking to them about modding is a great way for you to find out what they’ve been doing—and for you to learn a bit more about games.

 

Nicole Tanner

About Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.