Diving Into the World of Garry’s Mod
Whenever I would hear mention of Garry’s Mod, what would spring to mind would be images of Half-Life’s G-Man placed in ridiculous poses, cross-eyed and wearing a grin so absurd that it would make the Joker blush. So I kept my distance from the sandbox physics game, having no interest in playing with virtual dolls or associating with the game’s seemingly deviant community.
But the allure of the virtual sandbox remained, and every so often, a tale of some impressive feat of engineering executed within the game would draw me one tentative step closer. When a friend recently suggested I try it out, I dropped the façade of feigned disinterest and proceeded — dare I say it — full Steam ahead.
And so I plunged into the frightening world of Garry’s Mod.
GMod is not so much a game as it is a toolset — a mod in which you make mods, if you will. The Steam Workshop is filled with user-created content, from vehicles, to weapons, to NPCs, to maps. Multiplayer servers run custom game modes that range from Left 4 Dead-style zombie survival to roleplaying communities. But the heart of GMod is the standard sandbox mode — which can also be played online with friends.
With no objective, sandbox mode allows you to do as you please with GMod’s full toolset. You can spawn and manipulate objects, weld them together, and apply various physics-related properties to construct any number of contraptions that include moving parts.
Watch my friend and I futz about in GMod:
After we experimented with the various tools, and the thrill of spawning monsters on each other died away, my friend and I decided to give ourselves an objective — to construct a vehicle. It’s easy to lose interest in a game with no focus or direction, and I felt my interest waning fast. But giving ourselves that mission paved the way for a journey of mirth and tomfoolery.
And at the risk of sounding trite, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Yes, we eventually managed to cobble together some pathetic excuse for a vehicle, fashioned from bathtubs and office chairs and held together by crossed fingers and prayers. But the fun to be had was during the construction process: the physics mishaps that hurled objects across the map; the accidental deaths that sent our ragdolls pirouetting through the air; the incidental discoveries unearthed through trial and error. And the laughs that accompanied the entire experience.
I get it, now. I understand GMod’s popularity — which has led to over 22 million dollars in sales over the past seven years. Where so many other games have come and gone, Garry’s Mod retains a perennial appeal through a combination of high replay value via mods, user-created content, and its sandbox mode, and a shared multiplayer experience that allows for a highly social environment. It’s a winning formula that has been successfully recreated in Minecraft, which has sold over 20 million copies across all platforms.
While humiliating G-Man remains an integral part of the GMod experience for some, the beauty of the game is that there is so much more that you can do with it — and no other game out there that can fully replicate the experience.