The Moral Economy of User-Created Content in the Digital Game Industry

The Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds has just published the article The Moral Economy of User-Created Content in the Digital Game Industry written by Daniel Nielsen and Alessandro Nanì.

NexusMods is one of the leading database of mods. This screenshot captures the most popular games based on number of mod downloads.

The original abstract: Modders, as people adding modifications or suggesting those to original creations, have been a source of free labour in the digital game industry. Their contributions have been at the root of many controversies. As such, corporations have adopted either hostile or friendly attitudes towards the practice of modding, which is reflected in how corporations try to facilitate or limit modders’ agency to create user-created content. This article explores the perspective of players as creators, commonly referred to as modders, on corporate strategies to commodify their free labour. The empirical work consists of semi-structured interviews with modders associated with the website fora and By adopting Sayer’s concept of moral economy, this study draws two conclusions: first, that modders exist within a participatory ecosystem comprised of the modder, the community and corporate actors, where all actors participate in a political-ideological negotiation on how modders ought to create digital game modifications; second, when analysing agency affordances, a moral economy of multiple actors with different norms, values and social codes constitutes a provision system of social dependency that is at risk of collapsing whenever there is outsider interference, as well as corporate attempts to incorporate modders into paid-mod systems.

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