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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Modders and Tuners: How are they different?

Part of being a good judge is understanding the opinions held by both sides in a situation and, within the rules of law and precidence, providing a viable decision that is fair and unbiased. While I am no judge in the legal sense, my perception regarding the fairness of a law or claim may be swayed or changed by understanding the views of the claimant and the defendant.

This statement is true for everything I write about, if you disagree with me, come up with a viable argument and evidence to support your claim and I'll listen.

Now, what's on my mind is the act of modifying a console by, or for, an end-user. For example the XBOX, as released was a formidable console gaming using with potential DVD capabilities (you'd need to buy the remote). A few resourceful individuals, and some companies have created modifications (mods) to install into the XBOX that allow for a wider range of function and changes to not only the console's functionality, but some game functionality. This is where the concern begins.

A novice might liken the upgrade to what a car enthusiast does to a car. The tuner will add performance parts and such to improve the functionality of the vehicle in the area of speed, access, comfort, entertainment, or cosmetics. This is legal unless the car is used for street racing, but legal otherwise (for now). How is it somehow wrong for to mod an XBOX then?

The difference is that the code in the XBOX is designed to work in a particular manner. It was authored to serve a strict design to ensure the best game functionality and limited (i.e. no DVD without buying the Remote) to preserve licensing. We're not talking about adding a muffler or lowering your suspension, though some mods will void the car's manufacturer warranty. Some gamers go so far as to modify the software that runs on the XBOX (as it has been stored on the hard disk) so it behaves differently and while this is creative it is changing the design without the author's permission.

Personal Use... If an end-user does this for himself there's very little impact. Aside from the annoyance to others for a ridiculous mod that creates an unfair advantage, but this is no longer just personal use, it's effecting others. This would be much like the modified car, with a resonator on the exhaust, driving down your street.

So, it is wrong to mod? Yes, technically. Is it stoppable, not so far. Is it that different from tuning your car? No. It really comes down to your use of the customization and whether you have respect for others.

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