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Sandbox Storytime: How Customizable Games lead to New Possibilities

Whether it’s built into the game or a creation from the modding community, there are lots of ways to play a game outside of what the developers planned. While it might be easiest in sandbox-style games like Minecraft, with mod creation and the power of the internet, interesting game modes can pop up in a slew of traditionally un-editable games such as GTA V or Among Us. I wanted to take this moment to highlight a couple of these fan creations across different games.

Courtesy of Mojang

Starting with the king of open world creation, Minecraft offers players a wide variety of tools and options for customizing worlds and multiplayer servers, allowing players to run their worlds how they see fit. While it’s hard to get exact numbers, there are believed to be upwards of 54,000 Minecraft servers in operation hosting a variety of game types, from player-made minigames like Spleef to PvP-centric Hunger Games style worlds that pit players against each other in increasingly-dangerous settings. This doesn’t even begin to account for the family servers or LAN games between family and friends that put a whole new twist on what’s otherwise a solo survival adventure and foster collaborative creation as well as friendly competition.

Garrys Mod
Courtesy of Facepunch Studios

Predating Minecraft by 4 years, Gmod (also known as Garry’s Mod) is well known across Youtube for the number of game types it offers outside of the game’s initial sandbox design intentions. Players and communities have been using this game since its release in 2004 to create a variety of game modes and servers, some of the most popular being modes like Murder, Prophunt, Guess Who, Trouble in Terrorist Town, and more. The base game of Garry’s Mod is a sandbox of freely-manipulatable objectives without any set objectives; from this foundation, a community has blossomed for all creators, including those who might otherwise be unable to afford to publish a game on their own.

Among Us
Courtesy of Youtube, @H20Delirious

And it’s not just the sandbox that creates new games: even games without a robust sandbox mode can foster alternative means of play as long as there is an inch of customizability available to players. Have you ever loaded up a game of Among Us with friends only to discover your group is a little too small for a satisfying round with 2 imposters? Players have crafted a set of honor rules to turn the social deduction game into a high stakes game of Hide & Seek where the killer wanders the dark, looking to catch players trying to do their tasks. This only works if you know the other players and everyone agrees to play along and follow the rules, as there’s no way in-game to punish those who break this self-imposed rule set. Maybe it sounds like too much work, but it’s a fun twist on a popular game that may otherwise run out of steam after a couple months.

Overall, games (especially sandbox-style games) can play an exceptional double role as both a means of entertainment and as a tool of creation for further entertainment. Even if you’re not reinventing the wheel, the community has certainly shown time and again that creative solutions and game modes abound. So, to creators and players alike, we say, keep it up! And bring on the mods.

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