Finding Meaning in Mods: Yeltsin Penado

Yeltsin Penado
5 min readMay 30, 2021


Fountain GTA Vice City, 2021

Yeltsin Penado Presents a series of interactive digital artwork utilizing video game Modifications.

“A Series of interactive modifications made for Grand Theft Auto’s 3D Universe. The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) franchise has developed a theme and lore which spans an array of titles: GTA: 3, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas; The settings of GTA games are fictional parodies of American cities, through the lens of a thematic snapshot in time. This series of works utilizes an experimental software that opens the GTA game files which are loaded into a computer’s memory; this allows anyone to use GTA 3D models, assets and textures to create their own landscape using the game as their empty canvas. The modifications were produced on a software named: MEd v0.32 which allows you to change environmental elements within the video game. Liberty City is a rendition of New York, Vice City is a rendition of Miami, and San Andreas is intended to span a whole state comprised of three major cities and regions: Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and Las Vegas. These landscapes are characterized by American stereotypes surrounding the local culture, monuments, distribution of wealth, proliferation of crime, corruption, false idols, excess, waste, and lawlessness. Through modding GTA, our blank canvas reveals methods of manipulation through simulating a narrative through an unreal setting.”

Portland Harbor GTA 3, 2021
Kenji’s Casino GTA 3, 2021

What is a Video Game Modification or “Mod”?

A Mod is an alteration by players or fans of a video game that changes one or more aspects of a video game, such as how it looks or behaves. Mods may range from small changes and tweaks to complete overhauls, and can extend the replay value and interest of the game.

“The Grand Theft Auto franchise is notable for their excessive use of violence and allowing players to retain freedom over their actions. This creates an interesting quagmire that parallels real issues that plague American society. We project our subjective interpretations of freedom and ideals, at the expense of others — in many ways.”

Yacht GTA: Vice City, 2021
Life Guard Tower Vice City, 2021

“Applying alterations to a digital landscape allows me to replicate excess and shape a small documentation of history.”

Yeltsin Penado is an artist which utilizes emerging and experimental software and technology to produce audio and video narratives. Yeltsin got into modding by researching open-source solutions to 3D Animation. This prompted him to research Mods and Machinima and take a closer look into why people decide to modify video games. He draws inspirations from Warren Spector’s: Game Manifesto, and Publications like The Machinima Reader and Theoretical writings from Erik Champion.

“Video Game development engines have become a popular choice for indie game development teams and much more accessible for people who are beginning to learn game design. Game engines are becoming a viable option to produce an array of digital media that can become immersive through interaction and sharing through a collaborative community.”

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel GTA: San Andreas, 2021

What is Machinima?

“Machinima is the merge of two words “Machine” and “Cinema”. It is 3D Animation, but with a heavy influence from Video Game culture — Sometimes exclusively using video games for the settings, actors, themes, and plots to create compelling narratives, experimental films, or as a tool for analysis.”

“I’m interested in Architecture and Landscapes. I find that GTA has a very creative way of presenting tropes in a location’s geographic setting. GTA has an uncanny artistic style and sophomoric humor associated with it — potentially making it the backbone of cliche online humor. The universe GTA has built resembles American culture, and allows one to roam the landscape as a protagonist criminal.”

San Fierro GTA: San Andreas, 2021

“Not all technology is synthetic —It’s important to remember that something synthetic, doesn’t have to be a technology.”

“I’m inspired by quite a few things. I think there are really interesting projects happening online; and there’s a devoted community willing to share an array of tools. We have an opportunity to create surreal experiences with our endless imaginations becoming the only limiting factor. I’m really into architecture and landscapes; and I’ve found a way to alter a landscape and create an experience.

I believe that once someone begins to alter a story they are familiar with, they can begin to develop abstract meanings and construct an alternate reality. This creates a visceral experience.”

Drive-Tru Wedding Chapel GTA San Andreas, 2021

“Modding is an ongoing project for me. I believe that hacking a game involves a creative way of becoming familiar with the way it works, and begin to understand how it operates. I feel that artists should be at the forefront of the development of technology — to find new and interesting ways to interact, interpret and invent meaning in technology. I have always been interested in tinkering with different medias and crafting artwork from raw materials. I feel that I am able foresee an aesthetic that approaches surreal subjects.”