Genette first defined paratexts in his 1987 text, “Paratexts: Thresholds of interpretation”. Genette writes, “”More than a boundary or a sealed border, the paratext is, rather, a threshold” (Gennete,1987, p. 2).
Although not officially part of the text, the paratext can have a significant influence over the way a text is received.( Ian.B, 2010). When analyzing the inventory of the elements that constitute a paratext, Genette divides them between peritext and epitext (where “paratext = peritext + epitext”) (Genette.1997; p. 264).
Gennete had names for the different paratext depending on how created them. Paratext its self as part of a creation of the original author, it would then be considered a peritext
Peritext- refers to all the text compacted in the volume, for example, the game itself, the cover art, the manual, its layout and back cover, as well as cinematics or new skins.
As for epitext refers to all the related texts, interviews with the various and different members of the development and design team, the console or computer, the publicity or advertisement of the product, and then it would also include everything created by the community, like glitches, mods, errors, frag movies. Paratexts are constituted of both of these terms. Paratexts create an area of “Transition” or “transaction” in the reception of the text. It is closely linked to areas of “social Texts”(Genette, 1997)
The question the author would like to address around this essay is, what happens when the game or mode becomes a paratext from a different text. A game within a game. In this essay, I go over how some situations where the central text becomes decentered and is then a paratext for another text. On researching game modding and the steam workshop and how it might become a paratext and the other way around. As well as the surrounding paratexts around games.
Postigo (2008) notes how modders operate according to a different ‘moral economy’ than the one commercial developers operate in. One of the affordances of that different set of values is no conception of copyright. Since the very starts of gaming, modding has been present in lots of forms, UI (User Interface) changes, map customization, different weapons and so. But there would be nothing left of it was not for its community and the people surrounding the game, that seek for a deeper experience when playing the games that go to the point of trying to improve it. Postigo, 2008)
A good example of this would be talking about the creation of Counter-Strike, which originated from creating a mod from an existing Ip (Half-Life). A young couple of University students were invested on the game so much that tried to implement their own ideas and concepts into the game, making a mod out of it. it attracted so much attention on the first couple of days of its release that the main developer valve took action and became involved in its development.
The day that the SDK (Software Development Kit) and steam workshop arrived the Counter-Strike Community was probably one of the most impactful add-ons that they could have come up with. The Steam workshop was at first used to the distribution of new items for the Teamfortress 2, further on the development it got updated to be able to support any game on the platform in 2012. It was not until later on when a patch for Portal 2 was released, that enabled the tools to share user created content. Dota 2 became Valve’s third published title available for the Steam Workshop in June 2012. its features include customizable accessories, character skins, and announcer packs. Though custom skins and maps had been around the game since the first edition of Counter Strike 1.6 this was a total change for the economy of the game as well as the gameplay.
Arms Race mode was based on the original gun game mod. The game consists of one round with uninterrupted respawns. The condition for winning is the same for both teams. One player from either team must score a kill with the golden knife. At the beginning of the game each player would get a gun and would get an upgrade for every kill, they would keep going until the last golden knife.
It was at this point that Valve started implementing the user created features into Counter-strike since it was added to the main game after its success thus the epitext started affecting the main text. the changes within the community that affected how the game was played and how it was conceived as a game.
Since the first games and interactive media were created, players and consumers have been looking for places to learn and share more about the games they love. That is why having a grouped gaming community on a single platform has been profited by different companies throughout the years.
Today, content is broadly extended and available worldwide, and players can now play levels or maps creating from all around the globe. This changes completely the way of visualizing a game itself. Mixing the user created content and the tools provided by the developers.
‘Modders are also in a unique position to challenge the way we think about the relationship between work and leisure in the post-industrial age and to explore new modes of non-alienated labour’ (Kucklich, 2005).
With the expansion of the game and its premise, the increasing community also created a huge community around the game and how it should be played. If we go back to paratext and how they affect the gameplay, a lot of information and strategies came from this the users. Thousands of strategies and ways of play were posted of different forums, analyzing every detail of the game.
How much money you could spend depending on which round you were on and how much the enemy had left based on the past rounds. This practice is described as theorycraft, which is defined as the theorizing of different strategies, applications and sometimes glitches of the game to further the knowledge of the player and gain an advantage. Then by analyzing theorycraft as a paratext of counter strike.
Consalvo’s (2007) Cheating, in the same way, says how there is a change between the game text and its paratexts, suggesting that
‘Although games are not immutable in the sense that there is only one way to play them, they can be more static and fixed than their surrounding discourse. And that discourse is much easier to change, amend, update or retract than even a patch—arguably a paratext itself—to a computer game’. (Consalvo, 2007. p. 12)
Would then significant parts or sections made obsolete due to the playing of the meta? The author of this essay does not agree with that question, if we take a closer look at how theorycraft decomposes the game, it is arguable that in sense it would make it more enjoyable, since more aspects of it are discovered and shared, then making it a new experience. The whole environment surrounding the game and its intricacies, allows players to inspect uncharted parts of the game. This is further discussed as the platform would then realize what this would mean for them as a community.
Valve is using that paratext to get rid of some of the cheating problems that has been dealing since the beginning of the games. Although valve efforts to stop the cheating behavior, penalizing very severely and with no exceptions, the situation has barely changed. The game counter strike global offensive received a system called overwatch which allows players to review replays of gameplays of reported users and user that would get caught by Valves anti-cheat system VAC, this process is a combination of artificial intelligence analysis of players behaviors and habits, some players with more experience and notion of the game would be selected as candidates to judge these infractors, then based on their knowledge and criteria they have the power to vote and ban the suspect. Though, I do wonder If paratext has a playable function, is it still considered paratext? the player is then directly manipulating the game, but not the main game. In what category of the paratexts does it fall.
Valve proceded with the introduction of the decorative items known as “skins” that could be purchased from the main store in Steam and then sold for steam wallet money or find some 3rd party webs or users that were willing to trade those items for real money. For counter-strike, the introduction of skins led to a fierce and nonstop gambling market. People buy skins for cash, then use the skins to place online bets on professional league matches.
‘Nothing is about Counter-Strike is about the game anymore ’ head of e-sports integrity at gambling watchdog SportIM. ‘It’s all about betting and winning. ’ (Moritz M, Virtual weapons are turning teens into serious gamblers, 2016)Does that then mean that the attention is shifted from the main text into the peritext, does that then serve as a paratext of the game, if it is reshaping the main design of the game, as is not seen as the first person shooter anymore but a gambling game? However, she argues that mods have the potential to become the primary text when the game serves as a medium for new and different play opportunities. (Consalvo, 2017)
The game is still the main center of the experience, but Consalvo says ‘the positions of game and mod switch—the mod takes center stage and the game is the supporting actor ’, in this case the mod being the skin alteration, as how is not about the game experience anymore. (Consalvo, 2017)
Furthermore, it can be discussed that counter strike modes don’t have an influence on the way that the game is perceived but it affects the way its played. Though the market-place and steam have their ups and down, it can not be denied that it opened the gate to the creation of fantastic content in a lot of different ways. It also adds Interaction with other users with the same interests and hobbies. it expands the way the game is meant to be played, you can join a server and download their customs skins and get into a new world full of people from different backgrounds. The subscription mode of the server allows easy access to use maps as well as cooperative maps with history mode. Some of these maps allow the players to further develop their skill as some are customized for training, changing the way that the game is approached.
Counter-Strike used paratext to create and control its own image to make an impact. The research shows that material surrounding the game but then changed because of the mods.
To sum up, the steam workshop and its mods are a paratext of Counter strike, which led to the creation of epitexts. That by themselves were more recognized than the original text, and thanks to that more connected content were created as peritexts. And the mods and steam workshop granted a formal recognition that had an impact on the original “text” by combining the community and the former developers engage.