Sub-Versions: Investigating Video Game Hacking Practices and Subcultures Through Research-Creation

Sub-Versions is my research-creation thesis in Concordia University’s Media Studies (MA) program.

Over the past decade, the increased accessibility of software tools and online marketplaces has created a fertile ground for independent game development. Yet despite these new opportunities, a subculture of developers has opted to eschew modern game creation platforms to instead modify the games of their childhood. By repurposing and revitalizing a variety of “classic” titles, these video game hackers are pursuing an unusual definition of free-to-play – one where out of circulation games are redeveloped and redistributed illicitly.

For my research-creation project at Concordia University, I will investigate the projects, tools, and communities that emerge from the practice of video game hacking through the development of several experimental videogame hacks. The implicit knowledge gained from this arts-based research will be synthesised and presented online through sustained iterative writing, accompanied by interviews with video game hackers and textual analyses of existing projects. By oscillating my perspective between experience and critical distance, I will purposefully and productively generate knowledge about the novel gameplay mechanics and narratives that emerge through videogame hacking and the motivations that inspire hackers to challenge a variety of legal and technical barriers.