In Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Anna Anthropy shows how hacks and mods can “subvert or comment on” a videogame, or even “correct what the modder feels is an oversight” in the game. In this lab we’ll experiment with modding Passage, the game by Jason Rohrer that embodies what Bogost called “procedural style.” This lab is heavily inspired by Zach Whalen’s own work modifying Passage (but don’t read Whalen’s account yet!).
- Working in a small group, begin by downloading Gimp, a free image manipulation tool. Note that Gimp is already install in the classrooms and computer labs on campus.
- Download Passage and play through the game at least once. Sadly, Passage will not run on the latest Macs. However, you can download the game onto the Windows side of any classroom or lab computer. You can then run the game without having any kind of administrative access.
- Open up the folder that contains Passage, and then open up the graphics folder. You’ll see a number of graphic files. Take a few quick guesses in your group about what each file is. What sort of assumptions are embedded in the file names themselves?
- Make backup copies of the characterSprite.tga and spouseSprite.tga files. Then swap names. That is, rename characterSprite into spouseSprite and vice-versa.
- Play Passage again. What’s happened?
- Try other renaming variations.
- Open up characterSprite.tga and spouseSprite.tga in Gimp. What are you looking at? Now try editing the files in Gimp. When you save or export your changes, be sure to deselect the compression option.
- Now go crazy and try your own mods of Passage. Can you make a mod that subverts, challenges, or comments upon the original Passage? Can you make a mod that subverts, challenges, or comments upon the same themes as Passage?
The lab report is due by midnight on Monday, shared as usual as a Google Document. Before you write it up, (1) read Zach Whalen’s thoughts about modding (and teaching modding) with Passage. Also (2) refresh your memory of Anna Anthropy’s chapter about hacks and modifications. Finally, (3) think about your own mods of Passage.
For the report, put these three elements into dialogue with each other and try to draw some tentative conclusions about modding as a form of cultural expression. Please include especially interesting screenshots of your own Passage mods.