Who owns the mods?

BY: Yong Ming Kow, Bonnie Nardi

Modding, the development of end user software extensions to commercial products, is popular among video gamers. Modders form communities to help each other. Mods can shape software products by weaving in contributions from users themselves based on their own experience of a product. The purpose of this paper is to investigate a conflict between a modding community and a gaming company which reveals contested issues of ownership and governance. We studied an online game, World of Warcraft, a large multiplayer game produced by Blizzard Entertainment. From content analysis of forum posts and interviews with modders, we explore the connected but divergent ethical systems of modders and Blizzard. The question — Who owns the mods? — arises through different perspectives of mods ownership rooted within contradictory ethics and practices in the two communities.


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