website (archived) | full thesis
Sub-Versions: Investigating Video Game Hacking Practices and Subcultures is my Media Studies (MA) thesis at Concordia University, completed between 2017 and 2019. It is a 30,000 word written thesis accompanied by a blog, which was updated throughout the research process.
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 re-purposing and revitalizing a variety of “classic” titles, these videogame hackers are pursuing an unusual definition of free-to-play – one where out of circulation games are redeveloped and redistributed illicitly.
For my thesis, I investigated the projects, tools, and communities that emerge from the practice of videogame hacking. By combining interviews, textual analysis, and iterative writing, I explored the novel gameplay mechanics and narratives that emerge through video game hacking and the motivations that inspire hackers to challenge a variety of legal and technical barriers.