Modding (video games)

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For other uses of "mod" or "modding" see the disambiguation page Modding.
Related terms: Addon
See also: Custom Remix, Homebrew pinball
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Modding is the practice of creating new content or changing existing content for video games, using the game itself. The content itself is called a mod as an abbreviation for modification or modules. Mods are usually a fan practice; however, it is not unheard of for developers to create official mods or endorse mods.

Depending on the hardware and software used, modding can be done in a variety of ways. This includes using toolsets provided by the developers or third parties, modifying the source code if available, editing assets, or ROM hacking (for console games). Game mods can range in content, purpose, and objective: bugfixing and optimization, fan translations, reincorporating unfinished or cut content, adding new levels, stand-alone games using the original game's engine, etc. In the latter respect, and in the required skills, it may be similar to Machinima.

While any individual with access to the required tools, skills, and code may mod, a team or community and a high degree of organization is often required to create sophisticated and extensive mods, such as translations and large modpacks.

Similar to other technical and skill-based fan communities such as the vidding community, modders often assist each other with web-based training networks, tutorials, and resources[1].

A similar practice exists in tabletop games and tabletop RPGs, known as homebrew.


Even though the actual concept may be similar, the term "modding" is not used across all fandoms. Notably, in multiplayer games, modifications that would give a player an unfair advantage are strictly prohibited and may result in a game ban. (The line between an acceptable mod or add-on and a hack or cheat is usually delineated in the game's TOS).

  • Addon or Add-On is the term used in World of Warcraft fandom.
  • The Sims fans use the term custom content for additions that don't change gameplay mechanics, and mods for those that do.
  • Creatures fans call mods "COBs" or "Agents," and call the adding of COBs and Agents "Injecting."
  • Furcadia players call mods "patches," though this shares the term with a "patch," which is a fix in a video game by the game's creators.
  • Petz fans don't have a general term for a mod, but call the creation of custom animals "hexes" or "hexies," and the act of creation is called "hexing." Custom backgrounds and items aren't usually referred to in the same way.
  • Zoo Tycoon traditionally just called mods "downloads."

Types of mods

  • Fan translation - Mods that add additional language options to a game. Fan translations may include translating written text, modifying assets such as signs, dubbing voicelines, and more.
  • Quality of life (QoL) improvements - Mods that add bug fixes, graphics improvements, and tweak game mechanics for a better gameplay experience, while remaining as close to the original intent and goal of the game as possible.
  • Cosmetic mod - Mods that change the appearance, texture, or sound of in-game objects, textures, or environments. Some games may support such changes natively, such as Minecraft's skins and resource packs.
  • Unofficial patch / Dummied content restoration - Adding "dummied" content—planned content that was ultimately cut in the course of a game's development—by implementing unused source code and other concepts. (Examples: Half-Life 1/2/Alyx and Fallout, especially Fallout 2 or Fallout: New Vegas)
  • Original campaign - Adding a new campaign (such as a game mode, mission, or storyline) to an existing game.
  • Modpack or overhaul - A set of modifications grouped together that change the game in drastic ways, but not so much as to be considered a new game.
  • Total conversion - Completely different games that merely use the source game's software as a backbone. (Examples: Skywind, Golden Eye X)
  • Randomizer - Mods that randomize elements of a game, such as stats, encounters, items, and more. Randomizers that change elements such as sound effects, geometry, animations, and graphics often share similarities to game corruptions. Randomizers are popular for metroidvanias, JRPGs, and adventure games such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, and Pokémon, as it increases replayablity and forces new approaches to progression.
  • Vanilla - Unmodified games. Some games are so popularly modded that the community has to specifically clarify when referring to the unmodified game. (e.g. Minecraft, The Sims, The Elder Scrolls, Half-Life 1/2/Alyx, Portal).

Legal Situation

Official approval

Unlike other transformative art forms like fanfiction or vidding, modding is often supported and encouraged by rights holders, as long as it aligns with their plans for the Intellectual Property. This support ranges from toleration to providing toolsets[2] to featuring mods to incorporating them into the official game at a later date[3] to creating official games based off popular mods.[4]

A good example of an officially approved mod that later became incorporated directly into the base game is the "Mo'Creatures" mod from Minecraft, by modder DrZhark (John Olarte). The horse models of the mod were tweaked and officially added by the Minecraft team in April 2013, garnering DrZhark a shoutout on Jeb's offical Twitter.[5]

Mod vs full-fledged game

In the United States context, the mechanisms of how the modder gets into the code of the game to mod it may violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or even simply the end-user license agreement (EULA). A particular concern of companies is the use of copyrighted material by another company in mods, such as a "Aliens vs. Predator" mod for Quake, which was legally contested by 20th Century Fox.[6]

Projects considered to be full-fledged fan games and remakes face more legal troubles than mere mods. Certain AAA companies have been known to take legal action against fan game developers (see Square Enix's cease and desist action against the Chrono Resurrection project.)[7]

See Fandom and profit.

Most EULAs forbid fan modders from selling their mods.[6]

Examples of mods

  • Fan translation and ROM hacking: English translation of the Japanese Playstation 1 RPG Tales of Phantasia, Phantasian Productions.[8]
  • An example of a highly sophisticated, semi-professional community are the Rogue Dao Studios, who create extensive original campaigns using the free toolset provided with the game Neverwinter Nights 2.
  • An example of the sometimes close relationship between modders and game companies, and the potential for modders to go pro, is the appointment of modder and beta tester Jon Shafer as lead designer for the Civilization V game by Firaxis.
  • An example of game cloning is Oolite, a free space combat and trading game, originally a clone of the classic 1980s game Elite but running with high resolution graphics etc. on multiple platforms. It has an active modding community designing new ships, activities, weapons, scenarios etc. for the game, and this community has its own fanfic etc.[11]
  • Kaiserreich - a mod of the Hearts of Iron games, which takes the premise "What if German had won WW1?" to craft an alternate world.

Games with notable modding communities

Modding sites and communities



  1. ^ The Infinity Engine modding communities Spellhold Studios and Pocket Plane Group are examples for such modding networks. Accessed August 26th 2008
  2. ^ For example, the official Dragon Age: Origins toolset provided by BioWare. Accessed May 3rd 2011
  3. ^ A good example are several game improvements incorporated into Dragon Age II that were taken straight off the "most popular mods" ranking at the Dragon Age Nexus (only excluding the adult-themed ones), including a respec potion, extra dog slot, and the no helmets hack
  4. ^ The most (in)famous of them all: Counter-Strike, originally a Half-Life mod. See the Counter-Strike Wikipedia page. Accessed May 3rd 2011
  5. ^ [ Also big thanks to @DrZhark,] Twitter. Apr 4, 2013 (Accessed 6/30/2021)
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ September 6th 2004, Chrono Resurrection Homepage. Accessed May 3rd 3011
  8. ^ Phantasian Productions Accessed May 4, 2011
  9. ^ Ascension/WeiDU Accessed May 4, 2011
  10. ^ Date unknown. David Gaider, Ascension Mod Readme file Accessed August 26th, 2008
  11. ^ Oolite homepage Accessed June 12th 2015