Audio Visual Essay: Understanding user created content as Transformative Play

Originally Published: 30/09/2015 with Brianna Fromont.

Transformative Play is a concept that incorporates a variety of gaming spheres, competitive gaming, mods or any other form of gaming which transcends the game’s original ruleset; it is constantly changing, evolving and morphing to suit a different state of gameplay. With the advent of social media transformative gaming has become nearly as important as the game itself, yet can be difficult to understand and unpredictable, it is often a factor developers do not or cannot account for. By examining the idea of Transformative Play using Salen & Zimmerman’s 2004 Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. By doing so we hope to formalise our understanding of Transformative Play, its relation to Metagaming and how developers can account for this aspect of gaming in user created content. Transformative Play is when any sort unpredictable results occur from rigid game structure.
It can often be difficult to predict the results of Emergent Play, especially on the wide andambiguous spectrum of play. It is defined easier by Caillois category of Ludic Activity .Particularly, Ludic Activities paired concept of the Paida and Ludus; Paida represents thefree, improvised and impromptu aspects of gaming, while Ludus is the regulated, formalised and rule bound aspect of play. This is what makes Transformative Play another element of metagaming, it falls in the middle of Paida and Ludus, it is an examination of what players can improvise and change within the rules set out in a game. With the addition of user generated content, players don’t just play, but they come together to share, change, adapt and transform the game. There are areas within Transformative Play that can be explored through social context. This social relationship is described by Richard Garfield as, “the relationship between the game and outside elements, including everything from player attitudes and play styles to social reputations and the social context in which the game is played.” This Metagaming concept is split into four categories, what a player brings to a game, what a player takes away from a game, what happens between games and what happens during a game other than the game itself. These four categories are ones that the developer may not be able to control, butinfluence . Thus we can begin see this kind of Transformative Play and Metagaming when we examine the ways in which user created content has changed the games they wereoriginally created for.
Skyrim is a game that still has a strong community of players and modders; it is thanks tothis dedicated community that, at 4 years old, Skyrim could give current triple A titles a run for their money. With Mods ranging from immersive and sublime to the crazy and ridiculous, the Steam Workshop has over ten thousand mods along with Skyrim Nexus, which offers so much more. Players have gone so far as to overhaul the entire look of Skyrim, changing the atmosphere and context of the game. Modders have even created epicstory quests that are even longer than the ingame story. Skyrim stands as a true testiment to what a community of gamers can do when given control over a game’s creation kit. The Dota 2 community market is a network of players creating their own cosmetic content for profit. This buying and selling of content has made being a contentcreator a viable career.
Dota’s created content is not limited to cosmetic items, however only cosmetic items arebought and sold. Dota also has custom games, which are created from Dota’s originalassets. These custom games transform and adapt already existing mechanic of Dota into something completely new forcing players to adopt wholly new strategies, essentially casing a Transformative Metagame . GTA5 for the PC has many options of which the player can influence within the game. The player may choose to do any missions at their own pace, which during that time there is a dense amount of content to be explored. GTA5 has a content creator for its online players, along with the option to create mods and share them among others.
LetsPlay , a popular youtube channel, puts out videos every day of games being played with their own unique commentary. Often, they put out videos of them creating levels or collecting items within GTA5 . These videos continue to influence their new videos, as the players want to try out new ideas with the conversations they have during play. This channel alone has 100 videos of players making up games within the game itself. This shows us the potential social influence Transformative Play can have.Start small, if we examine a Board game like Once Upon a Time, we can observe an excellent model of a game that relies relies heavily on player interactions. The rules of the game explicitly outline the importance of banter and interaction among players, we can see the game change based on the different ways players try to steer the game’s ending. Using our examples from earlier we can begin to see why Dota 2’s monetized market is much more hostile to new modders than Skyrim’s open source mods. This issue was highlighted when Valve attempted to make a payment feature for the Skyrim Workshop. While they may have had the good intention of supporting their modders, it divided the modding community and caused a legal, ethical and creative disaster. This illustrates the issues of monetising an established community of free and open developers.
Another thing developers should keep in mind when working with the gamer community is custom games. Just like Dota’s custom games, players love to take content and make something completely new with it. By opening up user created content, developers and players get to see and experience something completely reenvisioned. By giving players content to work with and change, it allows for greater shareability and discussion in social platforms.This works well on both ends, as the players continue to get new content for the game and the developers get the benefits of having more involved players.


Academic References:
● K, Salen. E, Zimmerman (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals . The
MIT Press.
● Smith. B. (2006) Play and Ambiguity . London, England: The MIT Press
● Caillois, R. (1962) Man, Play, and Games . [p. 12.] London: Thames and
● Toworfe, P (2015) What is Metagaming and how is it important? Current Digital
[Online Article] Retrieved from:
● Garfield, R. (2013) Metagames . [Online Article] Games, Technology and Society
(edt. 210) Retrieved From:
● Bethesda Game Studios (2011) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. [Video Game] Various
Countries, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows.
● Valve Corporation (2013) Dota 2 . [Video Game]. Various Countries, Steam.
● Rockstar Games (2011) Grand Theft Auto V. [Video Game] Various Countries,
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows.
● LetsPlay (2015). GTA 5 RPG! Mod Gameplay! [Video Commentary] Retrieved From:

● Tassi, P. (2015). Valve’s Paid ‘Skyrim’ Mods Are A Legal, Ethical And Creative
Disaster. [Forbes Online Article] Retrieved

Visual References
Competetive gaming:
Skyrim High Speed Modding:
Lefts Play:

Dont Starve:
What is Transformative play?
GTA5 Hide and Seek:
Witch Doctor Piada and Ludus:

GTA5 Hide and Seek:
Social Context:
Rocket League Chat:
BOI Speed Run:
Poly Bridge:
Arnold Mod:
Beauty of Skyrim:
Content creator article:
Getting item workshop ready:
Custom games Tralier:
GTA 5:
Speed run:
Lets Play:
Once Upon A time:
Dota Shortcomings:
Forbes articles:
Making a Dota2 map:
Lets play GTA 5:

Audio References
Witch doctor song:
GTA5 Hide and Seek:
Rocket Leauge:


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