Video games are great, but sometimes fans have great ideas to make the games better. Sometimes companies are totally cool with it, like Bethesda. Other companies, like Nintendo, not so much. Is either company right in the way that they treat fan-made content?
I personally love fan made content. My copy of Skyrim is heavily modded, and I play games like Project M and Dark Rising all the time. Fan-made content is great. Game developers do a great job, but mods allow players to customize a game into exactly what they want it to be. This is the reason that Skyrim has stayed so big for so long. More mods are always being added, and some of them are huge. A recent mod called Enderal just released. This mod is essentially a complete overhaul of the game, and Bethesda is completely fine with it. Bethesda designed the game with modding in mind, and that has been great for everyone. Their game has stayed huge for way longer than any single player game should, and fans still love it.
Certain mods, like Enderal, blur the line between being a mod and being a fan-made game. One of the mods that has not been as accepted by the developers is Project M. Project M, or PM, is a modded version of Super Smash Bros Brawl that makes the game play in a way that is similar to Super Smash Bros Melee. Fans did this because the gameplay mechanics of Melee were better suited for high-level competitive play. For a long time, Project M tournaments were happening all over the world. Recently, Nintendo has put a stop to this. Sanctioned tournaments can now only contain official Nintendo games. This has caused the competitive scene to slow slightly. The reason that Nintendo did this was to increase the demand for their newest Smash Bros game. Rather than wait it out and hope that eventually people would move to the newest game, Nintendo decided to force the hand of gamers in order to make more money. Personally, I think that Nintendo was in the wrong in this situation. I feel that mods are acceptable because you still need to own the game in order for the mods to work, even if the mods are practically a new game. Project M is also free, so they were not really stealing anything from Nintendo anyway. For more reasons why Project M is worth trying, check out the video below.
I think the biggest problem is when fan games completely replace the original. An example of this is the Dark Rising games. They are Pokemon games that use all of the same Pokemon as the originals but are not made by Nintendo. Even though they are still free games, this is blatant copyright infringement. Sometimes companies still ignore these, but some fan made games have actually surpassed the original game (see video below), and that forces the company to act. Their options are to shut it down, or to accept it as something that the fans want. Normally, companies choose the first option, but not always. Black Mesa is a fan-made version of the Half-Life games. Rather than sue the creators, Crowbar Collective accepted that the fans wanted this, and have started to help make it happen. Not all developers are as accepting of fan-made games, but we thank the ones that are.
Videogame copyright laws are still very much up in the air, but it appears that fan content is going to begin to become less accepted by developers, and more easily shut down. Video games are for fun, so I believe that developers should be more like Crowbar Collective, and less like Nintendo.