Collective Intelligence & Modding

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Example of a strategy guide

Collective Intelligence in the realm of video games have been around since the industry’s formation. Collective Intelligence is the collaboration of gamers and fans of video games working together to share a variety of resources that enhance the experience of gaming. This includes but is not limited to strategy guides, walkthroughs, cheat codes, secrets and “Easter Eggs” (small pieces of content hidden throughout the game that may be difficult to find), and modifications (McGonigal 2005). Collective Intelligence can be found in any realm where video games are discussed. Originally, gaming magazines were the primary source of gaming Collective Intelligence, where readers could write in about cheat codes, ask for help with difficult parts of games, as well as discuss their opinions on the games popular at this time (Drayson 2012). This was essentially the sole form of Collective Intelligence from the start of the gaming industry until the early 2000s.

In the early 2000s, the primary forms of Collective Intelligence for strategy and cheat codes shifted towards strategy guides specific towards a singular video game, or into books that were full of only cheat codes for a variety of popular games (McGonigal 2005). Magazines were still prevalent at this time, but their focus primarily shifted towards rating and discussing popular games as well as the gaming industry in general. These magazines are still doing basically the same thing today, however, printed strategy guides and cheat code books became all but nonexistent after the internet changed how gamers interact with each other around 2010. Online strategy guides became easily accessible in a variety of forms, ranging from video walkthroughs, forums, and written walkthroughs. Instead of writing into a magazine or purchasing a book, cheat codes were a few clicks away online.  While the medium in which Collective Intelligence has changed over the years, the goal of enhancing the individual experience of playing video games with assistance and contribution from the larger gaming community has remained the same.

Video Game Modding is a practice that has also been around since the inception of the industry. Modding is the practice of modifying the source code of a video game to improve the experience of playing the game. This includes, but is not limited to, cosmetic changes that don’t change gameplay (altering the appearance of one or many aspects of the game), changing aspects of a game to change the difficulty of the game, or expanding the game by addition of new areas or characters (Drayson 2012). This practice was not very common at the beginning of the video game industries life; it did not enhance the games enough, and for enough people, for arcade owners to invest in modifying games. Modding became a more prevailing part of gaming culture during the console era. It was still a tedious process to download mods onto consoles, but the mods became increasingly available and advanced.

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Example of a mod

However, modding was still not a dominant part of video game culture until the popularization of online gaming, primarily on the gaming site “Steam”. The graphical capabilities of online gaming paired with easy access to source code created an easier way to mod games (Drayson 2012). This ushered in a massive new aspect of gaming culture and Collective Intelligence, as these mods became as discussed about as the games themselves. Community members even began to request mods into their favorite games, causing a market for requested mods. For example, one Steam user made a post in a forum joking about wanting to play as then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump in Rocksteady Studio’s Batman game. A little over a week later, a new mod appeared in Steam’s modification store (a place where users can buy and sell gaming mods) allowing gamers everywhere to play as Donald Trump in game, for a small price. Making cosmetic changes to the game like the example above are the most common form of modding today. This online “Mod Market” has created a new form of Collective Intelligence in gaming, where gamers can discuss new mods, request a specific change they would like to see, and sell their current mods (McGonigal 2005).


Drayson, H. (2012). Players Unleashed! Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming (review). Leonardo 45(5), 491-493. The MIT Press. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from Project MUSE database.

McGonigal, J. (2005). SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community. Modern Drama 48(3), 471-481. University of Toronto Press. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from Project MUSE database.

Image Attribution: Image #1“Final Fantasy (NES) Super Nintendo Strategy Guide” by Bryan Ochalla is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0; Image #2: “New PC Mod Takes You Beyond Gotham City in Arkham Knight” by BagoGames is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by Jacob Gonzalez, 2017.