Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

“Mindie?” No Thanks

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 20, 2010

Alistair Doulin writes on both Gamasutra and his own blog (they are the same article) about bridging the gap between mainstream and indie game development… what he jokingly (I hope) refers to as “mindie.”

It’s actually not a bad article. I did enjoy reading it. By his definition, most of the games I mention here are made by “mindies” – occupying a middle space between “mainstream” and “indie.”  But I reject his original hypothesis.

He paints a caricature of both indie and mainstream development. Mainstream is represented as soulless factories of formulaic sequels, and the indies are pretentious bearded bohemians.  Yeah, these stereotypes have been pushed by the media. Some of the antics at the IGF and comments by big publishing execs haven’t helped dispel these exaggerations. So we get stuff like this:

But I don’t buy into this. I don’t see these necessarily as extremes of a single, narrow continuum, but simply as exaggerations of certain subcultures or philosophies within a much broader spectrum.  To me, the “mindies” that Doulin talks about are just plain ol’ indies. The “fringe” that really gets into the “more indie than thou” arguments (and take them seriously) are just that – fringe. And I’ve been in mainstream development long enough to know that many of those talented folks cranking out the sequels really do chafe under the constraints they are given, and really try to do more. But yeah, unfortunately, I have noticed a trend among younger game developers to believe the marketing hype they grew up with, equating improved gameplay with more flash and bigger guns. Hopefully they’ll learn, over time…

So anyway, I really take exception to the co-opting of the term “indie” to apply only to a certain fringe, or that there’s a need for a third group to bridge the gulf between the two.  The indies are a wild and diverse lot, mainly because they aren’t constrained to fit any pattern that matches the conventional mainstream game business cycle. You have amateurs and professionals, experimenters and mainstream wannabe. An overwhelming majority do it out of love for gaming, though there are a few “microstudios” out there (I’m going to start using that term courtesy of the Develop conference, I think) that are simply chasing the latest fad in pursuit of making the big bucks (and maybe not staying small very long in doing so… *coughZyngacough*).

I reject the whole “more indie than now” thing as any kind of serious argument, though I don’t mind playfully indulging in it once in a while.  But for me, indie is defined not by what someone is, but rather by their choice to take one of many roads less traveled. It’s a really big tent, and I think the pragmatic, professional (or at least professionally-minded) indies are smack dab in the center of it.

Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • Arowx said,

    So would you go for a 3D rating system for studios…

    X – Financial Independence 0-1.0
    Y – Creative Independence 0-1.0
    Z – Team Size 0-1.0

    Probably using a non-linear scale

    So a true indie would be [0,1,0]
    EA would be [1,0.0001,1]

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    I think “mindie” might be better defined as “indies who make a living off of making games.” Instead of being pretentious and expecting that to get us known, we make games we’re passionate about. It’s kind of what indies are supposed to be, until the “fringe” as you call it kind of co-opted the term.

    But, yeah, not all that meaningful, necessarily, to distinguish between these groups.

  • Doolwind said,

    Thanks for your critique of the article. The idea of mindie mainly grew out of conversations I’ve had with my Indie friends who were annoyed at being stereotyped into the fringe indie’s you talk of.

    There are a diverse set of indie developers and while I think it’s not overly productive to try and give names to the different groups, many indie’s I’ve spoken to do tend to try and segment themselves for one reason or another.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Arowx – Ah, but you label one extreme as “true indie.” What’s that mean? 🙂 But yeah, it is a multi-dimensional beast, isn’t it? I personally don’t think team size has anything to do with “indie-ness,” but that really does illustrate the point of how broad the spectrum is – you have the “lone wolves,” partnerships, and even small teams. I guess it’s pretty hard to have a big team be indie, but I wouldn’t call it impossible.

    @Psychochild – Well, some make a living at it, others simply aspire to do so as part-time indies… 😉

    Hmmm – just a thought. I wonder how much the (recent) stereotype of pretentiousness is simply manufactured. Yeah, we’ve had some pretty experimental, strange games that appear “artsy-fartsy” get some press. But I wonder if the aura of pretentiousness is more just guys being silly and having fun at the “establishment’s” expense?

    @Doolwind – Yeah, I hear ya. Funny – not too long ago indies were being lumped together with “Casual Game Developers,” instead. Not sure which is preferable… 😉 But while I totally agree with the sentiment, I like the term “indie” and refuse to yield. 🙂 And thanks for coming by.

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    Rampant Coyote wrote:
    I wonder how much the (recent) stereotype of pretentiousness is simply manufactured.

    I think some of it is exaggeration, possibly for comic effect. But, I think there’s the kernel of truth hidden in there. I remember after Braid was a big success that Jonathan Blow went around criticizing mainstream games, especially MMOs, going so far as to call WoW “unethical” and “a drug”. Not that I’m the biggest fan of WoW, but taking such an extreme position on something so popular does seem to come off as a bit pretentious. In all the coverage on Mr. Blow’s remarks, I didn’t get any sort of playfulness or silliness behind his words. Maybe I read too much into it given that I’m an MMO dev….

    The other option is that it’s an intentional way for indies to set themselves apart in marketing terms. Being unapproachable or inscrutable or quirky gets you a lot more press than being a just a hard-working person trying to make what you think is a cool game.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    True. The big truism about getting coverage by the press is you have to offer some kind of story.