I found article, “Twisty Little Passages Almost All Alike: Applying the FRBR Model to a Classic Computer Game,” by Jerome McDonough, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Doug Reside, Neil Fraistat, and Dennis Jerz, very interesting. The writers’ difficulties applying this descriptive practice to video games, is reminiscent of our discussion in class about the problems documenting memes. Because of the vast quantity and anonymous, viral nature of memes, they are inherently difficult to definitively quantify and index. Many video games that have come out in the last few years have similar attributes. While the writers discussed games such as ADVENTURE and Doom, newer games, such as the 2011 release, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, present even more complex problems when considered from through the FRBR Model.
Skyrim is a massive open world role-playing game that takes place in a faux-Medieval land with the typical fantastic cast of dragons, trolls, elves, and the like. With over 100 hours of quests and missions, and an amazingly vast world to explore, Skyrim is wildly popular and quite revolutionary. A consequence, however, is a staggering number of glitches, ranging from quests that become impossible to complete because the player performed them in the wrong order, to flying mammoths.
McDonough, Kirschenbaum, Reside, Fraistat, and Jerz discuss the problems of different versions of ADVENTURE being grouped under a single, “Work,” as “Expressions.” The creators of Skyrim, have released numerous versions of the game, in the form of software patches that console and PC owners download. Currently on patch 1.8, the Skyrim wikia keeps an archive of sorts explaining the many different versions and what they include (http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Patch). While this is similar to the description of ADVENTURE, Skyrim has the added element of fan-made patches and mods. A number of skilled Skyrim enthusiasts got together and made their own ultimate patch that is continually updated based on player requests. How would a fan-made alteration to Skyrim be categorized, is it a completely different “Work” or merely an “Expression” of Bethesda’s vision?
In addition to the fan-made patch, there are also thousands of fan-made mods to Skyrim. The writers of the article described the “modding” culture surrounding Doom, mostly as proof that the version of the game that players were using was important to them. Skyrim, too, has a significant following of users that create modifications to the game, in this case that anyone else can download. Mods range from trivial changes such as replacing your traditional mount with a demonic skeleton steed to an extremely well-produced mod that adds cinematic lighting to the entire game.
The mods for Skyrim number in the thousands, and are rated and reviewed by a number of sources such as PC Gamer and UGO. This customization is a critical part of the Skyrim legacy, but, similarly to memes, they will prove to be difficult to archive and index in relation to the game itself. I would like to know what the legacy of video games will be, as the consoles and operating systems that they were created to run become obsolete.