The real joy of playing a game on PC is that, thanks to mods, your entire experience can be improved by the work of dedicated fans.
Because some mods are so extensive, transforming almost everything about the source title, we felt it was only fair to list 12 of the best of them here, since they may as well count as their own new games.
They are, beyond control schemes and visuals, the single best reason to play games on a PC. Mods can, at their laziest, tweak a game so its settings or features behave more to your liking. At their most ambitious, they can transform your entire experience, leaving you with something that feels like an all-new game.
This year was a big one for PC mods, with two - DayZ and Black Mesa - rivalling commercial products for public awareness and, perhaps more importantly, quality. But they weren't the only great mods released this year, here's a shortlist of the best mods released during 2012.
Gamers tend to take a lot of pride in building their own rigs, but it's generally not enough to have top-notch performance without the looks to match. Motherboards, for instance, have transformed from generic green slabs to works of art. Interestingly, it seems increasingly common to find aggressive military styling among high-end motherboards. Despite the prevalence of military-themed motherboards, enthusiasts haven't had a whole lot of stock options for matching cases.
Hoping to fill that void, Corsair updated its Vengeance gaming lineup earlier this year with the C70 series which comes in Military Green. Thermaltake also launched the Level 10 GT Battle Edition with the same olive drab paint job and a few nifty details that are well worth a look if Army-themed gear is your thing.
It was only last week that in lieu of a decent official Game of Thrones title I was recommending people keep an eye out for a GoT mod for Crusader Kings II instead. Turns out you didn't have to wait long, because it's not only been suddenly released, but it's surprisingly playable and comprehensive.
Tired of exploring Skyrim's rolling mountainscapes all by your lonesome? One enterprising modder hopes to alter the experience by allowing you to link up with your friends. "Skyrim Online" adds many of the trimmings you'd expect to find in a conventional online multiplayer roleplaying game...
On the heels of last week's Skyrim update, Bethesda has fired another volley of bug fixes over Steam today, with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions soon to follow pending approval by Sony and Microsoft. Patch 1.3 brings general stability improvements...