One of the games I’ve spent the most time playing is Skyrim, but not much of that time has been spent playing the unmodded game.
I think I started playing a pirated copy in 2013, since I didn’t have a personal Steam account back then, and I played through the whole campaign and DLCs, finishing all of the factions’ questline except for the Mages College one, and then built myself a nice mansion near Falkreath with the Hearthfire DLC. My character was a Bosmer rogue archer, and I used a sword and Flame spell for backup when the enemy came a little too close for optimal use of my bow. I was introduced to modding when I ended up stuck with the stupid-looking Elven sword for most of the game, and then I lost my saves, so I thought “Why not try it?” and downloaded the Better-Shaped-Weapons mod by Leanwolf. This was my first mod, and it never left my load order. The next mods I downloaded were the Unofficial Patches for bug fixing, and I never stopped modding the game. To this day, I continue adding mods to the load order, and this process was arguably more entertaining than even playing with the mods. I still have trouble sorting all the load order and I think some of my mods are stuck not working because of that, but hey, it’s really fun to do. Of course, I eventually bought the game during a sale, and I can confidently say that from a 6 or 7/10 vanilla, Skyrim has become a 8/10 game to me, and one worthy of sinking thousands of hours into.
“Historically”, if we can use this term, the value of modders has been understood by Valve, who hired the authors of and published successful mods like Counter Strike, Team Fortress, and Day of Defeat. This decision makes sense on many levels: such a talented, motivated person is an invaluable asset for a company, and this person gets to live off their passion. Plus, getting the ownership of a successful IP is a good deal for Valve.
It is interesting that Valve and Bethesda, the two companies I mentioned in this article, also created the Paid Mods controversy a while back. (I don’t remember when exactly. My mind is bad at remembering dates) both companies taking a share in the process. Essentially, they were turning modders into underpaid DLC developers, which caused a huge ruckus in the community.
Paying for mods is something I’d seriously consider if I was a little richer. After all, modders put in a lot of hard work into their creations and should be rewarded for it. However, I don’t believe that the creator of the base game has a right to see the money that creator made. The modder has already bought the game, so Bethesda and Valve already had their share of the game: this is enough. Even though an argument can be made that they could get a cut, it should not be a big one, and at least 80% of the money should go to the modder directly.
But I digress. The point is that modding can truly save a game. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for example is practically unplayable without mods to enhance the gameplay. Far Cry 2 benefits greatly from having the health pools of the enemies reduced to a more realistic level. But the modding community truly shines in sandbox games such as Bethesda’s, or in Minecraft, where they can not simply fix stuff, but also add stuff, and this is where you should look if you want a talented game developer.