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Moving past “hello world”: Learning to mod in an online affinity space

, The University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States

The University of Wisconsin - Madison . Awarded


Game modding has increasingly become a mainstream and "cutting edge" medium to foster a broad range of critical software design and programming practices to learners coming from wide-ranging educational and professional backgrounds. Participatory practices, like game modding, are highly interest-driven and entail intense engagement with content and an engaged audience, thus, are driven by varying motivations to participate (Gee, 2005; Jenkins, 2006a; Varnelis, 2008). In order to describe learning through modding, and learning to program through modding, thus, it is imperative that we address salient questions, such as what are the various player motivations to mod, what critical aspects of modding are to be considered about when using modding in programming instruction, and finally, what are the challenges or limitations that are particularly unique to the medium of games and modding in terms of how modding practices might compare to traditional software engineering practices .

Accordingly, drawing upon data from a 2-year long discourse centered online ethnographic research (Androutsopoulos, 2008) of a Civilization gaming community, Civfanatics, this dissertation study examines three dimensions involved in learning through modding – a) motivational factors that impact participation, b) inherent affordances of the modding interface or toolkit, and, c) the role of the online affinity space (Gee, 2005) in sustaining individuals' pursuit in modding. The salient findings from this research include – first, a typology of modding dispositions depicting salient modding practices and how Civilization players learn to mod; second, a multimodal cross-section of a longitudinal modding project that brings together the distinct techniques of programming and game-play `modes' involved in modding. Through this multimodal cross-section, this study identifies distinct phases of production and the interplay of salient social dynamics, such as forming of collaborative teams during development, or peer mentoring and feedback observed during each phase. Finally, this study contributes to our understanding about how well mod-production practices may align or conflict with traditional programming content taught within formal settings, and as such, has significant implications for design of learning content and environments that can better leverage game modding to advance programming fluencies.


Subramanian, S.D. Moving past “hello world”: Learning to mod in an online affinity space. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Wisconsin - Madison. Retrieved June 13, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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