Sub-Versions: Investigating Video Game Hacking Practices and Subcultures  is my thesis project in Concordia University’s Media Studies (MA) program. Over the course of a year, I will be weaving together interviews, textual analysis, and iterative writing in an attempt to understand the complex dynamics present in video game hacking communities.

Why a Blog?

The purpose of the blog is to formulate tentative propositions gained from my research, presenting them in an accessible manner while also inviting feedback and scrutiny. The open and iterative structure of a blog  will allow me to acknowledges my subjectivity as someone who has had previous involvement in the practice of video game hacking.

My approach is inspired by Laurel Richardson’s book Writing Strategies, in which she encourages researchers to “understand ourselves reflexively as persons writing from particular positions at specific times” and to free ourselves from “trying to write a single text in which everything is said to everyone.” Richardson refers to research material as somewhat malleable, allowing for varied presentations and synthesizations of knowledge based on the researcher’s needs. Although Richardson focuses primarily on text-based work, I will expand her definition to include media that are easily created and accessible on the web. Some specific types of content that could be created for the blog include: personal reflections on the hacking process, documentation of relevant tools, typologies and continua that help define game hacking and position it in broader discourses, and gameplay logs.


Over the past decade, the increased accessibility of software tools and online marketplaces has created a fertile ground for independent game development. Yet despite these new opportunities, a subculture of developers has opted to eschew modern game creation platforms to instead modify the games of their childhood. By repurposing and revitalizing a variety of “classic” titles, these video game hackers are pursuing an unusual definition of free-to-play – one where out of circulation games are redeveloped and redistributed illicitly.

For my thesis project at Concordia University, I will investigate the projects, tools, and communities that emerge from the practice of video game hacking. By combining interviews, textual analysis, and interative writing, I will purposefully and productively generate knowledge about the novel gameplay mechanics and narratives that emerge through video game hacking and the motivations that inspire hackers to challenge a variety of legal and technical barriers.

Research Questions

  • What motivates game developers to create tools and hacks that are undistributable through commercial markets and at constant risk of legal action?
  • What novel gameplay experiences and narratives can emerge through the editing, remixing, and subversion of existing video game content?