Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 4, 2013
I’m an indie cheerleader. Or “evangelist” as I sometimes call myself. I’ve embraced the term, as ambiguous as it is. It’s a useful term. Part of the reason I embraced it is because I was in the mainstream industry back in the 1990s, and I saw the best and worst of what it had become. For me, “indie” got back to the roots of gaming, bypassing the giant machine that through the 90s was an overwhelmingly powerful gatekeeper.
As “Shareware” (the usual method of bypassing the gatekeeper) was no longer an applicable term, some folks adopted the “indie” label. It wasn’t much of a label describing who they were as who they were not. Literally, it was “everybody else.” The numbers were never that small, but they were mostly unknown.
The whole point of “indie” was to draw attention to “everybody else,” in an environment where attention is a scarce commodity and often required hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to obtain. That’s really what the indie revolution was to me – a capturing of a portion of that spotlight. Of course, it had serious (but not bad) repercussions — like an explosion of new indie developers. But it’s not like indie is anything all that new. In my mind, it’s a continuation of how games were made back at the dawn of the hobby.
So really, my opinion isn’t that much different from Robert Fearon’s in his recent article, The Indie Revolution at Gamasutra. Aside from my fondness for the term, “indie,” I think we really see eye-to-eye on the whole phenomenon. The article is awesome, anyway. Well worth the read.
Having worked in both fields, I am acutely aware of both the differences and similarities between working on an “indie” game (or should I say, “small / low budget”) and a larger, more mainstream game with a traditional publisher. I prefer the former in most ways, but it’s nice having the steady income and layers of support of the latter.
But ultimately, the core similarity is that you are making games. I won’t lie: there’s no end to the awesome of that. Yeah, it can be stressful, long hours, lots of pain in the butt, but if you love video games like most game developers do (at least the guys down in the trenches), it’s still something incredibly cool.
The whole “revolution” and term “indie” was really about a back-door way to set ourselves apart from the guys spending millions of dollars on TV ads, so that gamers *might* take look off the beaten path once in a while and see what we were doing. To the people (especially the press) who weren’t really paying attention, sure – it’s a revolution. Or maybe just a revelation. They turn the corner from their thoroughfare and say, “Holy crap, when did all THIS stuff get built?” and don’t realize it’s all been there forever.
Better late than never. I celebrate the revolution, such as it is. It means indies have a chance – maybe not a very good chance, but much better than they used to have – of getting noticed and being successful doing their own thing, without having to beg favor of the Big Publishing Overlords as they did in the 90s and early aughts.
I’ll take it.
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