Gamers As Makers: To Play is to Create

Gaming is turning players into self-taught designers and creators as developers increasingly respond to the desire for interactive design in games. Here, writer Alex Wiltshire takes us through a brief history of the phenomenon of gamers as makers

Perhaps you’ve heard of Fortnite? It’s one of the biggest games in the world at the moment, with 125 million players enjoying its most popular mode, Battle Royale. The scenario is simple: 100 players drop by parachute into a land of forests and towns, forage for weapons and equipment and fight each other. The last player standing wins. Fortnite has spun a billion dollar business from this evocative concept, but while it’s made by Epic Games, one of the world’s leading game development companies, it’s built on the creative imagination of players.

The Battle Royale game was fundamentally invented by the players of Minecraft. Sure, they were looking to The Hunger Games and the cult Japanese movie Battle Royale for inspiration, but the tense game of survival they played across Minecraft’s wild, blocky hills and within its existing game design systems, as they wielded pixellated swords and bows and chowed down on health-giving gammon steaks, was all theirs.

‘Survival games’, as they became known, emerged around 2011 on multiplayer servers, first with players promising to play by the rules and later hardcoded through modifications to Minecraft’s core code. These players were adapting the off-the-shelf game everyone downloaded into new forms, extremely popular ones at that, and attracting brand-new audiences.