User-Created Content And Program-Modification In Video Games And Virtual Worlds

Barbara Johnson, University of Minnesota Duluth
Beth King, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Ibrahim Yucel, Penn State University
Shree Durga, University of Wisconsin - Madison


This panel will discuss videogame modifications (modding) and user-created content as types of play, extending the affordances of a videogame or virtual world beyond its original design.Millions of hobbyists and fans create and share extensions and modifications of commercial, off-the-shelf games in their free time.This activity sometimes replaces designed game play with the hobby of game component creation or participation in user communities surrounding a particular game title.This unusual appropriation of videogames and virtual worlds as creative outlets has implication for education and for the videogame industry.

Creation as playful learning can lead to skill and content acquisition in context-rich environments. Panelists will share ways in which they use content-creation and videogame modification to facilitate learning of IT and other skills.Many videogame titles spark the formation of fan-communities - both company-sanctioned and fan-created.Examinations of these community spaces provide compelling evidence that sites support essential social relationships and are appropriated by niche-specific networks of practice. These are an essential component for many of the modders, especially female modders, as they learn to create content and perfect their craft. In this session, we discuss the affordances of these communities, highlighting the designed features and providing a synopsis of the socio-cultural factors "in the wild" through which players may develop an identity as a member of an informal learning community.This may help educators increase student motivation and retention of non-traditional learners (women and minorities), especially in science and technology fields.

The panelists are researching various populations in a wide variety of videogames and virtual worlds. Three of the panelists are members of research teams on projects funded through the MacArthur Digital Media & Learning, including CivWorld, TechSavvy Girls, and Pop Cosmopolitanism. Another panelist has been teaching programming to a large variety of students using game mods.