Journal Entry 3: Game Modifications and Left 4 Dead 2
Left for Dead 2 (L4D2) is a cooperative squad FPS, developed and published by Valve in 2009, and is a highly moddable game as outlined by Anne-Marie Schleiner, giving the player the power to change the game. The original game sets the player in a role for one of four disaster survivors following a catastrophic pandemic that has transformed the whole world into a zombie-like apocalypse. The four survivors take up arms to shoot, slash and explode through hordes of undead, collect items and weapons along the way to reach fortified rooms called safe rooms to hold out against the infected until they can make their escape by means of a vehicle. Initially, after the game came out in 2009 there were very few mods available, most of which were limited to a handful of gun skins, SFX’s, and custom maps, which were largely unknown to most players.
The old procedure to install a mod back then was to visit a mod hosting site, download and extract the game files, and manually move them into the game directory. The major downside to this was that the modded files would overwrite the game’s original files, with no way to roll back the original files, and would require separate game file backups to restore them. However, when the Steam Workshop rolled, a hub for hosting user-created content such as custom maps, characters, weapons, items, sounds, and music mods could easily be installed/uninstalled with the click of a button in-game. This new ease of access not only transformed my gameplay experience but also inspired an explosion of new content and content creators in what Schleiner refers to as a, “productive relation between modders and the game industry may at times be that of a symbiosis, of reciprocal, circular, cultural gift giving.” (pp. 37)
I modified the game’s assets such as the HUD, characters, weapons, items, props, to a more realistic, high-quality, militarized style to suit my aesthetic preferences. Initially, the mods I installed were only cosmetic, however, through my online friends, I soon discovered the novelty of playing with both player-created maps and modded third-party servers, both of which modified the game's mechanics, and thus dramatically shifted the game’s expert difficulty from challenging to insanely difficult, breathing new life into the game and hundreds of hour of replayability.
1. “Game Modding: Cross-Over Mutation and Unwelcome Gifts.” The Player’s Power to Change the Game: Ludic Mutation, by Anne-Marie Schleiner, Amsterdam University Press, 2017.
2. Crawford, Christopher. L4D2 M60 Holdout. Twitch, GryphonDX, 2020, https://www.twitch.tv/videos/594942373. Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.