Burning Walled Gardens to the Ground Through Modding

Stan McLygin
4 min readAug 18, 2021


Gamers are innately willing to devote their time and resources to personalize, improve, or make their favorites better through modding.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that game publishers, or the corporations that compose them, have been trying many ways to incorporate modder labor into their value proposition equation.

However, it’s not always been roses and butterflies. Rapidly changing definitions of work and play are blurring the distinctions that have created an ownership tussle and increasing friction between professional game developers and amateur modders.

We already understand the reason why some companies tolerate (rather than encourage) modding as a practice. It just makes too much perfect sense for the industry: mods prolong the shelf life of their products on the market by reimagining gaming content. On the other hand, the industry’s vice grip on ownership actively discourages modders from monetizing the fruits of their labor − that corporations profit handsomely off under the threat of litigation.

On the other hand, some companies understand the value that modding creates; but in the same breath, they want complete, unbridled control of the process. This is where the walled garden approach (which has been one of the most egregious hindrances holding the industry back) comes in. Players might then be encouraged to create their digital content using the tools and assets provided by the company while providing a network to share their creations within that closed ecosystem. Encouraging modding by offering players company-approved tools and an environment to work in might be seen as a good thing. However, limiting the creative potential of modders, designers, and devs through the limits said companies impose and forcing them to hand over the rights to their intellectual property, certainly isn’t.

As a result, modders are unable to commercialize the hidden labor inherent in the practice of modding. They can’t charge for downloads, procure commissioned work, and are sometimes barred from accepting donations altogether.

That’s not to mention the gamer segment that’s diametrically opposed to being charged for mods since they expect such creations to be free. This particular segment may provide the rationale for companies who recognize the moral dilemma of profiting from unpaid labor yet remain reluctant to take concrete steps to provide a solution for all parties involved.

Walled gardens serve as obstacles that prevent the shift towards the metaverse: essentially the totality of physical and virtual reality.

Pioneering Much-needed Change

The problems of walled gardens aren’t lost on San Francisco-based digital fashion/NFT/esports pioneer @DIGITALAX_. The project seeks to achieve the lofty goals of liberating the gaming and fashion world through the same modding ethos that’s been at the center of the gaming industry’s development − and applying it to the metaverse.

This approach has allowed the company to be a leading light in the emergent, lucrative digital fashion market.

DIGITALAX transcends walled gardens hindered by physical, legal, and technological restraints by providing an interoperable Layer 2 solution that serves as a bridge to transfer digital fashion items across all gaming, VR, and 3D content environments, rather than remaining within the environments they were created for. And it has already done so by releasing @ESPA4play.

ESPA is the first casual esports platform for players, indie devs, and modders. It allows casual players to get into esports out of passion and play for points exchangeable for actual real-world value. ESPA enables gamers to earn a living just by playing − casually.

Such a platform provides the main actors within the gaming ecosystem another use case to leverage and monetize the content they create, all without having to subvert the current in-game economy or circumvent the content’s operative state.

On the other hand, designers will be able to create fashion skin NFTs with directly embedded functionality within the ESPA meta, where its varying rarities dictate how long a player can use such fashion skin NFTs within esports tournaments.

This marks the first time designers are recognized and honored for how their contributions create a unique, novel player experience that reverberates throughout the ecosystem.

ESPA also allows modders, designers, and devs to leverage Web 3.0, crypto, and non-fungible tokens without requiring them to build on-chain. Through ESPA, they can simply plug in and harness these technologies without having to re-strategize their pipelines.

Destroying Vertical Gardens; Decentralizing the System

Ultimately, DIGITALAX fixes the problem of being denied ownership of the assets modders, or practically any gamer, owns in the game. Each representation of digital content assets in games (fashion, music, skins, DLC, etc.) can be seen as non-fungible tokens and essentially unique containers and snapshots of value. For the longest time, these assets have all been locked within walled gardens by the centralized powers that be.

DIGITALAX is essentially in the process of destroying these vertical gardens and decentralizing the system so that the key players, the modders, that drive the industry gain true, immutable ownership of their content for as long as they wish.



Stan McLygin

Digital artist and 3d generalist