Gaming hobbyists have gained massive mainstream acceptance, albeit without much actual mainstream affection. The classic fat nerd stereotype is still going strong. Many pop culture critics insist that popular games are bigoted and sexist, and online gaming is still widely described as a bunch of people in their early teens being homophobic and such. This article is meant to shed more light on the other side, to showcase the creativity, work ethic, and dedication that game fans have in them. These are fans who, simply for the love of the game, took it upon themselves to improve upon the flawed work of paid industry professionals.
10. Knights of the Old Republic II: Restored Content Mod
2006 saw the release of a highly acclaimed, unusually well-written Star Wars game, just in time to prop up people’s faith in the franchise after the prequel trilogy soured many fans on the series. IGN called it Game of the Year for its moral ambiguity, citing the option to become a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord as an excellent touch. However, critics were equally consistent in saying that the game had a certain rushed quality to it, which meant many plot points were sort of dropped too quickly, many characters seemed to vanish suddenly, there were numerous bugs, etc. That’s what happens when you race against the clock in order to wash off as much of the stink of Jar Jar Binks as humanly possible. Fortunately, there were a large number of fans out there for whom a shortage of time was their last problem. The group, who creatively called themselves the Sith Lords, put back all the story points, locations, dialogue options, scenes, and so on for the game to be released on schedule. They also fixed so many bugs that one out of the eight versions required five hundred corrections before public release.
9. NES Godzilla Creepypasta
Creepypasta is a type of online horror story intended to be cut-and-pasted into as many Internet forums as possible. For obvious reasons, many of them are about video games. Of these, Creepypasta Godzilla is one of the higher rated ones. It features a guy playing a copy of 1987’s Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, which is possessed by multiple spirits that manifest themselves as characters in the game. Although the game itself was considered mediocre to bad even in its time, the story’s “screencaptures” and depth of storytelling became popular enough in the Godzilla fandom that it was decided that the game should become “canon,” by including the prominent characters “Red” and “Solomon” in the upcoming monster game Kaiju Combat.
8. Pokémon 3D
Even with thousands of TV episodes, more than thirteen games, and over 700 different fighting animals, fans keep wanting to expand Pokémon. Make it evolve, if you will. One of the most successful was eighteen-year-old Nils Drescher. He took the game Pokémon Gold and switched it to a first-person perspective. Not only does this give the game a more immersive feel that more closely resembles Minecraft than an old Gameboy game, he added more animations to make the all-important Pokémon fights more visually interesting with more animation and camera angles.
7. Chrono Resurrection
This fan creation is a mod of the classic 1995 role playing game Chrono Trigger, which updated the graphics to 3D and made it look gorgeous. That’s not too surprising, since the fan crew for it included industry professionals, such a crew member for the graphics in Matrix Reloaded. Square Enix, the holder of the Chrono Trigger copyright, had no tolerance for this and, in 2004, sent a cease-and-desist order that otherwise would have hit the makers with a $150,000 fine. But the fans, as of 2012, were still looking into ways to distribute their game under the radar.
6. King’s Quest IX: Silver Lining
King’s Quest, largely the brainchild of Roberta Williams, is a landmark game series. Its first entry has been credited with being the first adventure game. But around King’s Quest 7 & 8, the series dipped in quality until it became a critical and commercial failure. So fans decided to step in and create the best (and to date final) entry in the series. Completely without permission, a fan group called Phoenix Online Studios created 2010’s King’s Quest IX, which took ten years of effort to produce 3D graphics better than KQVIII, and which tied together the series to a greater extent than previous entries. Sierra Online initially sent a cease-and-desist order to protect their copyright, which usually would have been the end of it. Except that the series already had the good will of the fanbase and the approval of Roberta Williams, so a petition changed Sierra Online’s mind. They allowed a noncommercial release.
5. Elevator: Source
Probably one of the strangest (and best) mods of Valve’s Half Life 2, 2012’s Elevator: Source from Pixel Tail Games is about being stuck on an elevator. The sound effects, gameplay mechanics, and pacing are all consistent with the everyday tedium of waiting on an elevator in a contemporary office building. Then your elevator car begins to take on other passengers, and slowly the floors that you stop at become stranger and stranger. The surprisingly entertaining game received nearly universal online critical approval.
4. Rhye’s and Fall of Civilization
For all the efforts of Sid Meiers, there are numerous aspects of human history that his Civilization series failed to address as it portrayed Earth’s great civilizations waxing and waning. Rhye’s incorporates many of those aspects, making for a richer if generally less pleasant experience. The 2010 mod for the 2005 game Civilization III added aspects of history such as plagues, international tensions, regions and colonies declaring independence, etc. It also added less inspired, but still appreciated, perks such as new civilizations for the player to select, new combat units, and other little things important to remember if you ever find yourself creating your own real-life civilization.
3. Project Reality
A mod for Battlefield 2 that was in development for eight years, Project Reality is intended to experiment with making combat more realistic and immersive. To that end, the equipment was redesigned, the graphics tweaked, and the gameplay mechanics adjusted. One of the more prominent points of it was to provide advantages to those who use team work, as in real life. For example, equipment and ammunition are more accessible if you keep lines of communication and logistics open with your teammates. Instead of, you know, just finding whatever you need lying on the ground. Hopefully actual injuries and the like will not be part of the next step in this process.
2. Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm
Most games about World War II focus on the war in Europe, and Tripwire’s game Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad was no exception. But for their follow up, the decision was evidently made to explore the war in the Pacific, and an unusual development process was implemented. Tripwire reached out to the modding community to design their 2013 sequel Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm. The end result was a highly praised game with many new mechanics that balanced the American and Japanese armies well, and added some excellent game components. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of this process.
1. Day Z
Arma II was not exactly a blockbuster game when it was released in 2009. It was hardly a critical failure or a commercial bomb, but the biggest point of distinction it had was how in 2011, footage from it was mistaken on British television for images of actual acts of terrorism. But in 2012, New Zealand Army veteran Dean “Rocket” Hall added zombies and other intricate mechanics such as “emotion” and “tension” to the previously-dry military game. The mod was so successful that it increased the sales of the games by 500%, and critics fell over themselves praising it. Someone should let Square Enix know about that: maybe they’ll reconsider their copyright restrictiveness. Dustin Koski is also the author of Six Dances to End the World, a novel about a dancer who mods reality though dance.