Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Confessions of an Out-of-Phase Indie

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 31, 2013

In spite of having been “indie” for quite some time, even before it was much of a thing, some days I look at what’s happening in indie-dom and really feel like an outsider.

I think a good deal of it stems from background and culture. I have been a PC gamer – a computer gamer – most of my life. I never had an Atari or NES or Genesis. My games were on the C-64, or in the arcade, or – later – on the PC. When other people were talking about Mortal Kombat, I was talking about Wing Commander.  My first dedicated game console was the Sony Playstation, and my favorite game (aside from our own) was a collection of emulated arcade games. My girlfriend was blown away by Super Mario Brothers and tried to get me just as hooked on the game as she was. She failed, due in no small part to my not owning the NES console and not spending THAT much time at her house. I ended up playing a bit of it over the next several years – it was as ubiquitous in 1989 as Combat had been for the Atari almost a decade earlier, and a lot more fun to play – and I enjoyed it. But I never bonded to it the way others did.

I’m very much a latecomer (and newb) to the Metroid and Mega Man series. Castlevania was, for many years, just an arcade game (not a series).  Zelda? I enjoyed it, and thought they did a very nice job pulling off an action-adventure with RPG “flavor” for kids for the Nintendo. But I wasn’t saying, “Zelda! WOW!” I was too busy drooling over Dungeon Master for the Amiga. While I can appreciate these older games, and have fun playing them, they aren’t my thing.

And sometimes I feel a little left out because of that. Is that really dumb or shallow? Or is it simply a case of where I was too jaded by the time they were released, my ‘generation’ of childhood games having been experienced a few years earlier? While I imagine there was a good deal of the latter, it hasn’t prevented me from re-experiencing much of the same thrill (if not exactly the wonder) of my early experiences in the hobby. If anything, I’ve probably gotten even more deeply sucked in by many modern(ish) games than I ever was as a kid. I can think of a half-dozen RPGs over the last several years that have eaten more of my time than Ultima III ever did.

Some days it feels like “indie” as a whole – the guys making the games that get (most of) the buzz and the fans – hearken back to the 8- and 16-bit console era. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little out-of-phase with “popular” indie-dom. The Sega and Nintendo generations are “all growed up” now and making games, and hearkening back to the era that inspired and molded their gaming. During their heyday, I was still playing on the C-64, or moving over to DOS-based gaming. I have friends who were all over Super Meat Boy, but I wonder what I’m missing when I had fun with it for about a 15-minute stretch, but then found it fatiguing.

Does that put me out-of-phase with gamers – my audience for games – as well?

It’s not like I’ve ever felt all that “in-phase” as an indie, to be honest. Back during the reign of casual, I … had zero interest in making casual games, even though I enjoyed time-management and match-three games well enough.

Hopefully, it is it simply a case of games and gamers coming in all flavors. Civilization will suck hours and days from my life like nobody’s business, and I’m hardly an outlier on that one. And obviously indie RPGs are making a strong showing. And if I make another action-game… well, at least I’ll probably make one that stands out from the crowd. Maybe being a little bit out-of-phase isn’t such a bad thing. I might not win any IGF competitions, but part of the origin of indie was to serve the niche gamers that were poorly served.


Filed Under: Geek Life - Comments: 21 Comments to Read

  • Felix said,

    Odd that you’d equate indie-ness with an interest in console games. Isn’t the whole point of being indie that ordinary people can make their own games… which is only possible for personal computers, and not for consoles? 🙂

    That said, I owned a NES (Chinese clone, in the 1990es), and I also played FreeCiv or MOO extensively, but I made only casual games so far. It’s a matter of age, changing taste… and skill. And as you pointed out so many times, trying to pigeonhole indies is just hopeless anyway. So why worry about it?

  • Alex said,

    I think taste in games has a stronger factor than generation, and maybe even platform preference. I was a part of that early console generation: game boy, nes, super nintendo. Once I got my first PC in 1996 and was introduced to the older, and a bit more darker/grittier RPGs (i.e. Diablo, Lands of Lore, Baldur’s Gate) and adventure games (Myst, Riven) that was pretty much the end of Nintendo and consoles for me.

    I just saw this new game that was greenlighted on Steam yesterday called “No Time to Explain” and as I was watching the video preview and I was like, what’s up with all these indie developers making 8-bit, 16-bit chiptune, (messy) hand-drawn, graphics? Just isn’t my thing. Come to think of it, ever since the indie revival with Meatboy, Braid, etc., the only indie game I’ve bought is Legend of Grimrock.

  • Rachel said,

    There’s a lot of DIY fandom for cute Nintendo characters, which tends to popularly be associated with being a “gamer,” I guess. I think Nintendo lovers might be over-represented. I’m awful at Zelda games, but I love RPGs, but I still think Zelda fanart is cute. I mean, can you imagine making a Dragon Age plushie? Obviously, the solution is to make cuter games.

  • Xenovore said,


    Odd that you’d equate indie-ness with an interest in console games. Isn’t the whole point of being indie that ordinary people can make their own games… which is only possible for personal computers, and not for consoles?

    I think you may have misunderstood… What I understood (and agree with) is that a lot of “modern” indies seem to almost exclusively take 8-bit/16-bit consoles games as inspiration for their “new” game designs, rather than use computer games as inspiration. I.e. we continue to see these ugly, pixelly 2D games with consoley game-play coming from indies, in spite of having much better tech, and more importantly, much better past examples to draw inspiration from.

    To put it another way, we’d rather play Dungeon Master or Ultima Underworld clones than Zelda or Metroid clones. But instead, aside from the rare game like Legend of Grimrock, we get more crap trying to look and play like some ’80s console throwback.

    This is precisely why, in spite of wanting to support indie devs, I very rarely actually spend cash on indie games: they are absolutely nothing that I’d want to play on my PC.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I’d agree with Rachel that Nintendo fans seem over-represented in “geek culture”. They were a big part of making home consoles and handheld gaming mainstream, and created many iconic and recognisable characters. Very few from the other companies of that era have stood the test of time in the same way.

    I had a few consoles/handhelds over the years, but I always came back to the PC. The sorts of games you got for DOS and later Windows were (at the time) very different from console games, with very little crossover. Even now, you won’t see the likes of Crusader Kings II, Mount & Blade: Warband or Planescape: Torment on consoles.

    I’d probably also suggest that those of us interested in indie gaming are more likely to be into niche PC gaming, because the more happy you are with the mainstream the less likely you are to be looking for alternatives. (of course I do hope that some of the better indie guys do end up becoming mainstream, and changing what mainstream looks like!)

  • McTeddy said,

    You know something jay… I’m glad you’re an “out of touch” Indy.

    Before becoming a regular reader on your site I was a classic console guy. Mega man, Ninja Gaiden and final fantasy for the win!

    But it was your passion about classic PC games that drove me to try them… to fight through the clunky interfaces and pain in the butt settings. Ultima, Gold Box D&D, planescape torment… all SORTS of amazing games I discovered because you stayed true to your own tastes.

    You’re not out of touch… you’re independent!

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I feel lucky to have had a childhood that included both console AND PC gaming. My step-father got a computer for his business in the mid-to-early 80s, and my grandfather was given a computer to use at home because he was on a board of directors. I learned to use DOS commands just months after learning how to read. Games like ZORK tested my early reading skills.

    At the same time, I started with an older Atari 2600, then moved on to an NES. I went in a progression from there to Super Nintendo, N64, Playstation, PS2, XBOX360 – all the while with a family computer (and later my own computers)that got updated every few years on which I played games from Seirra and the SSI Goldbox games and others.

    So I feel extremely lucky to have nostalgia about both Zelda AND Dungeon Master. There always existed for me that line between console games and PC games, but I enjoyed both fairly equally.

  • Ottomobiehl said,

    I don’t think you are out of phase unless there are a bunch of other people who are out of phase with you.

    Personally I think “indie” is making the games you want to play. I believe there is an audience out there for the games you want to make. It’s a big world and there has to be more than a few like minded people.

    Even though I had a NES and SNES I enjoyed my C64 and playing the Bard’s Tale games and the Ultima games. I also cherish my Amiga days with Eye of the Beholder, Lucasarts graphic adventures, Civilization and Sim City (among others). With consoles I enjoyed a small handful of games that I usually played with my brothers. With the computer it was me, graph-paper and a lot of junk food. I do miss those days.

  • Ayrik said,

    Jay, I really liked this article. I do wonder myself if I’m out of touch most of the time because I don’t really like most games that come out. Hopefully this means that since I’m not getting the game I really want, there are others like me that want the same thing, and they’ll want to buy my game if I can ever release anything.

    By the way, we missed you at Indie Game Night. There were plenty of people who asked where you were and why you weren’t there. Including me!

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    Hmm, I’m seent plenty of PC game inspired indie and Kickstarter projects. Should be something for everyone.

  • Andy said,

    My experience is similar to LateWhiteRabbit’s in that I’ve always gone back and forth between consoles and PCs. (I would guess that the peak of my console playing tends to come when my PC becomes outdated and I’m too lazy/poor to have it upgraded.)

    In addition to lots of old NES/SNES players growing up and taking over, could it also stem from expediency? I have no idea but it seems to me that pixel-art platformers and Metroidvanias would be simpler to design and program than the complex, nuanced games that come from a classic PC gaming tradition.

    Whatever the reason, I would love to see more PC-styled games coming from indie developers, because even though I’ve enjoyed playing many of them, I’m growing weary of the flood of puzzle-platformers and Metroidvanias from the indie scene.

  • Xenovore said,

    I’m growing weary of the flood of puzzle-platformers and Metroidvanias from the indie scene.


  • Robert Boyd said,

    Puzzle-platformers, sure, but I actually think we could use a lot more good indie metroidvania-style games. There are a couple of high profile ones like Cave Story & La-Mulana, but there aren’t that many besides those two.

  • xot said,

    You’re not alone.

  • Xian said,

    I was even more out-of-phase than you. My first console was a PS2. I got one of the launch units in 2001. I had been playing PC games since the early 80s, progressing through Atari 800, Atari ST, Amiga, and then to a 386 in 1991. Now we have a PS3, 360, and Wii, but it is the kids that play those where I am still playing on the PC, only occasionally playing a console title.

    Even back in 1982 friends had the Atari 2600, but I went with the 800 computer. Their version of the Atari classics such as Pac Man, Space Invaders, and such looked very blocky, where the 800 versions looked like what you played in the arcade. The first year I had a cassette drive and played a lot of Temple of Apshai and Gateway to Apshai, but in 1983 I bought a disc drive and the first thing I purchased was Ultima III and have been a RPG gamer ever since.

  • Felix said,

    @Xenovore Oh! Yeah, sorry… I misunderstood. You’re right, that can be a problem. Maybe this is something that needs to be said louder. Unless it’s only a matter of fashion?

  • Cuthalion said,

    Like some others, I grew up with both. I was launching DOS games from Windows 3.1 while I was in kindergarten, waiting after school in the library for my teacher parent to get off work. This is largely thanks to my dad being an IT guy and furnishing our house with slightly out-of-date computers. But I also enjoyed playing on friends’ N64s, Segas, and such, and eventually my brother and I got an NES ourselves, followed by GBAs and later consoles. So, while most of my soft spot is for RPGs a la Avernum/Exile III and for RTSes like Age of Empires II, there’s quite a bit for Super Smash Brothers, Donkey Kong Country, and the console classics we enjoyed.

  • Gareth Fouche said,

    You and me both, Jay.

    I feel less enthusiasm, in general, for indie games and the indie scene than I do for the mainstream, which makes me feel like an outsider.

  • LTB said,

    You’re not out of phase. If you are, I like that there are people in that place too – on the indie market I feel, as many others do here I see, that the Nintendo-influenced games are much over-represented as ‘indie’. To a point that any company can make a Nintendo-style inspired game, and people will instantly call it ‘indie’ or talk of it having the ‘indie-spirit’.

    Those kinds of graphics and playstyles aren’t bad, but still…

  • Steven Fletcher said,

    I think you’re better off having played PC games when you were young. Your inspiration will help you make more original games, rather than yet another puzzle platformer.

    I bought a Nintendo when I was about 12 and didn’t have a PC until I was 17. I did have a Commodore 64 though. I also had a Vic-20 and an Atari 2600.

    In fact, getting the Vic-20 is one of my earliest memories.

  • Xenovore said,

    @Robert Boyd: Cave Story? Ugh! Exactly the crap I was talking about.