Whether they're new textures, objects, maps or complete overhauls, most mods take a fair amount of time and effort to create - time and effort that could otherwise be spent actually playing the game. The vast majority of modders do not get paid, so they're clearly not in it for the money. That begs the question: Why mod? What possesses someone to learn the ins and outs of a 3D program, master Photoshop or learn the basics of programming just to make content for their favorite game?
It's easy for me to say why I started modding. Most of my creations were partly out of boredom and partly to add something to the game that I felt was missing. Mods allow you to change a game to your own tastes, like redecorating an apartment. In my case, this involved adding a lot more Elven architecture to The Sims 2 than EA or Maxis had ever envisioned.
Considering the amount of unofficial patches, re-textures and armor additions out there, it should come as no surprise that a lot of people start modding for the same reasons I did. "What got me involved was when I downloaded the mod to play, and my first reaction was 'blargh,'" says Daniel Jones, one of the people who worked on Light of the Warp, an overhaul of the real-time strategy game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. "There was a lot of stuff broken in the early versions," he explains. "So I went and fixed it for my own game, and decided I might as well fix the mod itself and help out."
Jones' response highlights a common trait among modders: We're a selfish bunch. Most of us make custom content first and foremost for ourselves; whether or not we make it available to others is mostly due to whether we're part of a greater modding community. "It wasn't so much appreciation as gloating rights," says Jones of his decision to share his work. "I was a teenager. I had friends I played Dawn of War with over the net, so this was a coup."
Appreciation from others is nothing to scoff at. One of my main drives has always been the positive feedback I receive. Uploading good mods gets you compliments - a lot of them. And even though they may be copy-pasted into every other download thread by their respective users, they still do great things for the ego. For an activity that can be pretty solitary, the motivation behind a lot of modding is social.
It certainly is for Stefano Caldarone, one of the better known modders for The Sims 2. He worked on some of the earliest modding tools, including the CEP, a package of programs that made it easier for others to create content for the game. Caldarone says he was more or less drafted into the modding scene: "Frankly, I didn't want to get involved, but one of my colleagues somehow convinced me into helping out, thinking that I was much more skilled that I actually was. Since I didn't want to make him think poorly of me, I worked hard to understand what he explained me."