If you ask 100 PC gamers what they love about playing on that platform, more than a few of them will list mods as a reason they prefer a computer to a console. There’s a certain freedom that comes with playing a PC and, when you buy a game, it’s nice to know that you have the ability to play it however you want. Games are also only officially supported for a couple years after their release. That’s a bit of a bummer, and that’s sort of just the current reality for console gamers. Wouldn’t it be great if that weren’t so?
The main issue with this idea of mods on consoles is that developers like to sell extra content in the form of DLC. There is a fair fear that mods could undermine these sales, since users will often have quite a bit of material to keep them busy. That said, official content from developers is nice because it’s a canonical, universal experience for us all to share. And, for modders, it’s just more material for them to build on top of.
I just don’t see that issue as a good reason to prohibit mods from console games. Steam officially supports modders via their workshop where users can create and share content. It’s an amazing way to prolong a game and there are a myriad of benefits. Mods can improve graphics, alter difficulty, add characters, add locations, add quests, and crank the silliness factor up to 11. It makes sense for Valve, the company behind Steam, to support this since some of their popular titles began as mods. Team Fortress, which has created quite a legacy for itself, began as a mod for Quake. Defense of the Ancients, often called DotA, has also bolstered an entire genre of gaming and is a mod of the game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Mods have clearly been important contributors to the trajectory of game design.
There isn’t a total absence of mods on consoles, of course. Elder Scrolls and Fallout games are some of the best modding communities on Steam and Bethesda sees the value in that. This is perhaps why they have chosen to allow mods on the PS4 and Xbox One for both Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. In fact, Bethesda has decided that mods justify an uphill battle for them in terms of implementation. “It’s going to be a lot of work,” says Pete Hines of Bethesda, “but mods and private servers are definitely coming.”
Mods can also fix issues that developers don’t. The PC Port of Dark Souls was far from perfect and its multiplayer, which is a huge aspect of the game, was hosted over the now defunct Games for Windows Live. It was often hard to connect to friends or, really, to other players at all so the modding community stepped in and created patches to facilitate multiplayer.
Mods can even be better than their base game which, really, isn’t a threat to developers since the base game is required to play them. These past few years haven’t been the most impressive in regards to the Fallout series but a the second half of a hyper ambitious mod called Fallout: New California has given fans an experience they deserve. Based on the somewhat divisive title, Fallout: New Vegas, this mod feels like a game of its own and, somehow, doesn’t feel like any less of a professional project than the actual Fallout series. It even has voice acting which is a rarity for mods.
More developers should embrace this community. Not only do they prolong the life of a game, but they also motivate education. Modding a game takes a degree of skill and a healthy modding community is a great way to learn various aspects of development. It’s not all nudity mods out there, after all. People want to make quality content and, perhaps, earn themselves jobs in the game industry. That’s what Alexander J. Velicky was attempting when he made a mod for Skyrim at the age of 19 and that actually panned out for him. The modding community is important to gaming and I hope we embrace it further so we can further mine it for brilliant ideas.