When scholars discuss elements of gaming that hold promise for engaging youth and connecting games to learning, one thing they often point to is modding. Modding involves taking the source code of the game and changing it to alter something about the game – anything from the location and theme of the game, to creating new levels, new characters, new objects for the game. Modding is generally done by a third party – either a game player or someone who did not help to design or build the game. Counterstrike is an example of a mod gone mainstream. The game started out as a mod of the game Half-Life, and was eventually released on its own as a separate (and now extremely popular) first person shooter game. Modding is technical and creative, and allows the user to shape their gaming experience – Web 2.0 brought to games. Machinima, or movies made from games and through the games themselves is another example of user creativity brought into the gaming sphere.

In our recent study Teens, Video Games and Civics, we asked teen gamers about their modding behaviors – had they ever used a mod? – as a way of assessing the basic uptake and knowledge of modding and mods among teens gamers. We found that more than one quarter (28%) of teens who game had used a mod “often” or “sometimes” to change something in the games they play. Boys are more likely to mod than girls, though the differences are not quite as stark as with cheats, with 36% of boys and 20% of girls using mods. Teens who play massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like World of Warcraft are also more likely to employ mods.