Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Players Unleashed!

Players Unleashed!: Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming

Tanja Sihvonen
Series: MediaMatters
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Players Unleashed!
    Book Description:

    The author of this hugely informative study explores the question of what happens when players practise and negotiate computer code, various ideologies, and the game itself by modding (modifying a game) in the context of The Sims, the bestselling computer game of all time. Sihvonen examines the technical and material specificities of The Sims mods, as well as their cultural context. Viewed as a manifestation of participatory culture, modding makes PC games ultimately malleable: players reconfigure the game by creating new content, altering the code and changing the behaviours of the game engine. Using a semiotic framework, Sihvonen suggests a signification process that includes representation, interpretation, investigation and experimentation with the game system and rules. From its historical roots in the shoot'em up games, the author bares the fascinating evolution and dynamics of modding, where gender stereotypes, the thrills of hacking and living the Sims' American Dream intersect with the aesthetic and operational dimensions of modding. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1198-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
    (pp. 7-8)
    (pp. 9-36)

    The Simsis a curious computer game. Originally published in 2000 by Electronic Arts, it has since become a global crossover hit and a cultural phenomenon. It has been termed a strategic life-simulation, a lifestyle simulator, an IKEA game and a virtual doll’s house where the player’s task is to provide little AI-controlled humanoid characters, called the ‘Sims’, with a house, household items and furnishings, and follow the daily activities of these pixellated people.The Simsalso looks and feels like an exceptional game: its actual gameplay consists of orchestrating the Sims’ everyday lives by directing their paths, choices and...

    (pp. 37-86)

    In principle, modding can be defined in one simple and straightforward sentence: it is the activity of creating and adding of custom-created content, mods, short for modifications, by players to existing (commercial) computer games. These additions can be supplementary – in which case the mod is called a partial conversion – or mods can result in an entirely new game, which is then called a total conversion (TC). For instance, games likeQuakeandUltimaprovide their players with flexible game engines that allow them to turn the original FPS into almost any type of game, from driving games to...

    (pp. 87-122)

    What makes computer games specifically interesting pieces of digital code besides the actual gameplay is their inherent potentiality for malleability and alteration. At present, game software is structured and interconnected according to a specific logic: there is the game engine that controls everything that is to be experienced by the player by ordering the hardware to generate the appropriate images, sounds and movements, and mediating the content through designated interfaces such as the screen and speakers. The game engine thus renders the in-game world, its characters and objects, lets the story unfold according to the storyboard and the player’s input,...

    (pp. 123-156)

    As I have previously argued, interpretation and configuration, acting as the basis for the processes of meaning-making in gameplay and manifesting themselves in the physical activities of play, are closely tied to the representational qualities ofThe Sims. It may be true, however, that in the context of digital games,The Simsis an exception in this regard. James Newman (2002, 2), for instance, criticises the strong cultural studies tradition of theory building through concepts like (graphical) representation used to explain the pleasures of gameplay. He argues that for instance the appearance of game characters is not important to the...

    (pp. 157-184)

    The Simshas generally been labelled a virtual doll’s house and a real-life domestic simulator where the player creates and controls the lives of little AI-powered people. These kinds of epithets can be investigated through the concept of simulation, which in this context is regarded as an operating principle that connects the ingame occurrences to the ways players make sense of the real (that is, the actual, social) world. In semiotic terms, simulating real life refers to the subject matter of the simulation, ‘the signified’, whereas reference to, for example, the doll’s house gives an idea of the particularities of...

    (pp. 185-189)

    I began this study by quoting Nancy Smith, President ofThe Simslabel at Electronic Arts, who acclaimedThe Simsas a ‘cultural phenomenon’ thanks to ‘the openended creative freedom that players experience with the game’ (‘The Sims celebrates 100 million sold worldwide’). My research has tackled precisely the players’ various ways of exercising the creative powers allocated to them in the context of this computer game. The basic dynamic of my work has been concentrated on the player activity known as modification, or ‘modding’The Sims. The frame of reference of computer game modding has been based on the...

    (pp. 190-209)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 210-216)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 217-221)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-223)