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Work Hard, Play Hard: The Role of Modding and AI on Gaming Experiences

Work Hard, Play Hard: The Role of Modding and AI on Gaming Experiences


The creative industries are critical to sustaining our future generations. The games industry is a key component of this. Currently, the games industry relies on unpaid and overexploited player labour. This research calls for designing a more sustainable industry which is more ethical, protecting workforces of the future.

Modding (creating modifications of a game’s source code or design) is a unique interaction between players, the game itself, game developers, and, increasingly, AI. Mods are responsible for the longevity of many video games and for creating diverse experiences otherwise ignored. Yet, this work is often unpaid, leaving modders at the intersection of formal labour of game developers and the informal “playbour” of players.

There is a subset of literature which attempts to critically explore the dynamics between modders and game developers; however, a majority are critiques of the mods themselves or quantitative analyses of modding platforms. Notably, there is minimal work centring the players’ perspectives, investigating what it means for players to play mods. Players are in a unique position, serving as both the end user and the contentiously exploited creative labourers of the games industry.

As people consider how generative AI can be used to design immersive, blockbuster games, the games industry must pause and reflect on who is actually designing games, and what that means for play itself. This work intends to do just that, providing one of the first player-centric investigation of the complex interplay between mods and algorithmically driven games. In doing so, it seeks to answer the key research question:

RQ: How does modding change the relationship between work, play, and creation in video games, and how is AI affecting this?

Key Information

  • Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH
  • Project dates:
    November 2023 - October 2024

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