Recently, Valve decided to introduce a payment system for game-modifications that are available in their “Steam Workshop”. Here are my thoughts about the situation:
Modding is something based on the spirit of free sharing, labor of love in a way. It is built up by various people, embracing that spirit, but also by Valve with their Steam Workshop – supposedly in the same spirit.
But then suddenly money comes into play, and this creates an incompatibility. Especially since it is an attempt to build the commercial aspect on top of something that wasn’t designed that way.
More generally speaking, money is a great corrupting influence, and the outrage generated by Valve’s move is rooted in material, philosophical and spiritual grievances. Money as motivation in the mind impairs objective reasoning, and especially with growing economic pressures.
The emerging business trends we see in the world are not an improvement, but an attempt at dealing with growing problems without solving the core problem. Progress for humankind means being able to get more stuff done without monetary structures, because money is inherently a tool of distrust, social distance, a scarcity-ruled mindset. The root of all that is fear. What we see here is more of the old paradigm, masking itself as progressive in order to fit a corporate identity.
Compare that to the courage of CDProjekt Red / GOG.com and their decision to sell their upcoming game “The Witcher 3” DRM-free.
Now I’m not using this as a shining example for all eternity, since this is how great ideas usually start, and there are also factors involved that take away certain fears, but it still a bold move, and whenever such ideas eventually become corrupted, someone new has to step in and build something that fits the current spirit of the time. Trying to change the old fear-built structures is usually a futile endeavor, since people running them have made their choices and lack incentive to change; and even if there is incentive, they will merely adapt, without change of mind.
Thus the conundrum: Trying to create a movement for social progress and then wanting to make it big by involving big money. This is why so many things start pure in spirit, but if successful tend to corrupt.
As for the game “Skyrim”, the prime name involved in this affair: Especially the original interface put me off a lot (typical for-console design) as well as various bugs. Reliance on modding often is not a gesture of appreciation, but a strategy to outsource less-than-critical product features as well as a publicity move for improving product presence. This might eventually result in game dev business becoming almost purely management, with the development done by monetized contributors, which destroys the spirit of an artistic-creative process even more than is already happening especially in non-indie game development. Those who make the decisions have an impact on the product, and if the decision-makers have no emotional connection with the character of that product, then that will show in the product.
Then again … ‘Corrupted minds’ can be found all through society. Some of the outrage is certainly fueled by the very same mentality, people just resenting the idea of having to pay for something that they used to get for free.
Which mindset, which intention is driving someone should be examined for every individual case.