Garry’s Mod, often shorted to GMod, is a sandbox game created by Garry Newman and his company Facepunch Studios. It was originally developed as a modification for Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation’s critically acclaimed 2004 sequel to the first person shooter video game Half-Life. It was then released as a paid, standalone game through Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform, in 2006.
Rather than the game setting out specific objectives, the player is given total freedom to unleash their creativity. There’s a huge variety in how you can decide to play, including not just single- and multi-player modes, but all kinds of modifications created by an active community of gamers. These modifications include creating new weapons, vehicles and tools. The community have even created popular new modes of game play, including first person shooters, role play and racing.
At a basic level, GMod is a construction game. The player has access to a selection of props and ragdolls visible in the spawn menu. Once a prop has been spawned into the game, the player can manipulate them with the physics gun (physgun for short) – picking them up, freezing them in place or moving them around. Then there’s the tool gun, the most powerful item at the player’s disposal. It may look like a revolver with some wiring attached, but in fact, the tool gun is an entire selection of building tools for the player to use. This includes tools designed to hold props together or constrain their movement, like the weld tool, rope tool or the pulley, and ones designed for other kinds of construction (or destruction), from wheels to dynamite to balloons. The player also has access to the gravity gun, which can lift up and throw objects, but this is used less than the other two guns, especially since its function overlaps with the more useful physgun.
Because the game uses the Steam version of the Havok physics engine, the contraptions that the player builds accurately simulate the laws of physics. This means that players can do a host of things from simulating real life experiments to replicating existing architectural structures to building working rockets. GMod is a true sandbox game, where the player has total freedom and creative control, limited only by their imagination.
But there are lots of sandbox construction games. Minecraft is the second best-selling video game of all time, only beaten out by various releases of Tetris. GMod’s customisability means that users have created a range of game modes that essentially function as entire single- and multi-player games in lots of genres, built on GMod’s construction sandbox.
The game mode Trouble in Terrorist Town is a version of the popular party game known as Mafia or Werewolf: at the start of a round of game play, one quarter of players are assigned as traitors, who have access to bombs and devices to help conceal their identity, while everyone else is an innocent. Some of the innocents are designated detectives, who have special equipment like DNA scanners and bomb disposal kits. The innocents and detectives work together to find and kill the traitors, and meanwhile, the traitors work together to hide their identity and kill all the innocents before the end of the round.
Murder, a game mode created by Mechanical Mind, has a similar set up. The players are given randomly generated nicknames, mostly taken from the NATO alphabet. There are three roles: murderer, bystander, and bystander with a secret weapon. In particularly large games, there could be more than one murderer. The bystanders can investigate the scene of the murder and look for clues. The murderer aims to kill every bystander without getting caught. One of the bystanders is given a gun that can kill another character instantly, but needs to be reloaded after each shot. If they shoot another bystander, they will drop the weapon, go blind and be unable to pick up the weapon again.
Other popular game modes include role playing games, like HL2RP, Pulsar Effect Roleplay, and the most popular, Dark RP. Dark RP is a simple realistic role play game, where the player creates a character, chooses a job, and role plays as their character. There are a huge variety of classes that you can designate your character, each with their own purpose. The default class is Citizen, but the player can choose from a variety including Civil Protection, Mob Boss and Hobo. The player can also choose a customised job, although ones like Hitman are often restricted to prevent killing other players for reasons not incentivised in game play. The character earns a salary in most classes – around fifty dollars a minute is average, although it varies depending on the character’s job. If they want to take the easy way out, the player could buy a money printer… which could overheat and catch fire, or get you arrested.
In another game mode, Flood, you fight over players over deadly water. The player builds a boat using various props and tools, and has to try to fix props damaged during fighting. You can earn money by surviving during fighting periods. This game mode is last man standing, and the last surviving player gets a cash bonus.
There are many other popular game modes. In Cops and Runners, the players are divided into two teams, and the cops have to try to capture all the runners before time runs out. ReDead is a zombie survival game mode, featuring class-based game play similar to Dark RP, with various human and zombie classes, and first person shooter play. GarryWare is a party game with two simple rules: 1. Do what you are told to do, 2. Try to screw up what other players are trying to do.
Garry’s Mod may have started as a modification for another game, but it became so much more. It’s not just a game in itself: it’s a massive collection of games, it’s a completely customisable experience, and it’s a community of talented fans and game developers.