Saturday, January 02, 2010

My very fast thoughts on the indie game scene...

First off, let me make this clear: my 2009 game of the year is Flower.

Now I have yet to finish UNCHARTED 2 (playing thru it now) and so that could top it. BUT I 
mention it because:
a- many folks have asked me what my 2009 GOTY is.
b- I need to make it clear- before I go off- that I'm a fan of all games, mainstream and indie 

HAVNG SAID THAT (yes, I watch Curb):


Yes, I get the irony of a loud mouth, obnoxious guy like myself telling folks to shut up for the 
same behavior. So this is kinda tongue in cheek. But it's also kind of serious.

Here, this clip MEGA64 made for the IGF sums it up better than I could anyway:

Granted, this funny as hell clip was made FOR the IGF and so I imagine it's meant to be a
badge of honor that supports the indie game dev community. And I get that and I sort of 
respect that. On one hand, I want to say: good for the indie game makers who are pushing
back against the mega corps that rule the gaming roost. I'm down with that fight, even tho I'm
not participating in it.

But at the same time it occurs to me that the indie game scene seems to be trying awfully hard these days to make it clear how cool and indie they actually are. One would think that the 
games they make- because clearly they are so artsy and amazing and meaningful and more 
communicative than anything mainstream games can shit out- could communicate that 
message for them. But I guess not. Hell in some cases you've got indie game makers publicly calling out other indie game makers for NOT being indie enough or not being worthy at all of 
the independent badge.

Well here's what I told a buddy of mine who makes indie games and who was called out for just that very crime (he had had mainstream success and now is finding success as well on the indie scene):

If you really want to be indie, stop giving a fuck about being indie and just be; just keep doing ya'lls thing and fuck what anything thinks. THAT- to me- is hella indie. Hell, the people who go out of their way to make it crazy clear they are indie seem a tad suspicious to me anyway. If they were really so indie, wouldn't that be clear from their games? Why do they have to keep reminding us?

Lots of games from the indie game community wear their angsty-ass hearts on their sleeves and- as an outsider- it's fucking annoying. We GET it: you're intelligent, you're free thinkers, you think the mainstream is beneath you and you are here to save the day. Yadda-fuckin-yadda.

Do you REALLY want to be grouped in with that bullshit mentality given how entertaining and accessible your games are? 

So ya know...there's that.

I dunno- I just hate it when mainstream games are so vilified. As a guy who LOVES mainstream games (playing and making them), it just seemed to be a good time to stand up for big, accessible, in your face, good old fashioned entertainment. 

And for my friends in the indie community: I LOVE some of your games (clearly) and crazy respect what SOME of you guys/gals do. Hell, if I have the talent, perhaps one day I will make an indie game as well. I think some of you are onto something. But it's not the only game in town and I sure wish some of ya'll would remember and respect that fact from time to time.

But for the rest of you assholes, get yourself a copy of this and shut the fuck up :)


ps. I know the formatting on this is shit. But it's 3AM and I don't have time to deal with it right now. When I came back to blogging last week I found BLOGGER had changed their interface and beats the hell out of me how to make it work. I'll get around to it in the next few posts but I'm frankly too tired and bizzy to deal with it right now. Hope ya'll don't mind too much- thx! 


Charcoal said...

I cannot agree more.
But, much like the rest of the noise out there, it's a small vocal minority that gives the rest a bad name.
I am very confident that the vast majority of us basically just toil away and let our games speak for us.
Perhaps if we were a bit more annoying then we too would get some coverage.
I too am a big fan of commercial games, both playing and making; even if I'm in an unplanned leave of absence from making them.
In summary, Buy my game and I won't become an obnoxious twat. ;)

Harlequiine said...

Wow, you're back? Awesome. *adds URL back to Google Reader*

We in Australia don't get the XBox Indie games unfortunately, but I 100% agree that people who tell everyone they're indie and bag out the mainstream audience for not being indie are kind of hypocrits. It's the same with the music scene. I hang out with a local of local indie bands, and quite often I get laughed at for listening to more mainstream (metal) music. Why? There's a reason most bands make it big, because they're talented.
That's not to say that indie developers aren't talented, but I agree with you.

On a side note, I'm visiting LA in April this year and I'm freaking finally going to Disneyland and maybe others! So excited! (:

Zodiak said...

love indy games, love game that think outside the box but they tend not to sell that well in the market. Granted they provide a fresh look into the industry but they just go overlooked by the bigger mainstream titles. And if a indy game goes big then it's considered mainstream.

Welcome back to blogging Dave, hope you had a good new years.

grasshopper said...

I never really noticed the indie game scene. I mean I play and loved Flower and a few others but I didn't know some were flaunting their indie so in your face.

TrevDogg said...

I have ALOT of respect for indie devs. But sometimes they do put they're foot in mouth. But of course mainstream devs do the same.

Unknown said...

Just checking that everyone knows that the Mega64 video is... sarcastic. You do, right? (I commissioned it for the IGF Awards show, so I should know.)

da criminal said...

Simon, yes, clearly it's meant to be funny (and it is!). But the reason it's so funny is that there is a strong ring of truth to it, don't you think?


CriminalMethod said...

Indie games are like the NHL of the gaming world. Yeah, they're cool and some people are die-hard Indie game fans, but they are still low on the totem pole in terms of the various genres.

CriminalMethod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

The same shit happened to Dylan and the crew @ Q-Games in Kyoto, once their games became successful. Its just the less-successful indie devs hating by trying to make the so-called definition of "indie games" into something that is never enjoyed by a wide array of people.
As much as I hate big publishers, I think commercial games are still awesome. Uncharted 2 would be my game of the year, and the guys at Naughty Dog deserve that. Just because they have a budget doesn't make them into Scrooge McDuck.
They're just doing their own thing and indies are doing theirs. I think making an indie game and a commercial game are almost 2 separate ways of approaching development. You can do either, or both, and still be a legit artist and make games worthy of being played. I say just do whatever you feel like doing.

Effing Frost said...

Having worked at an indie music label I often compare the game business to the music business and I think this is a great example of why I do that. . . lots of bands get crap for "selling out" all the time. Signing to a major label is essentially an indie sin punishable by exile from the land of hipster. I think (in both games and music) people fly the indie banner because, frankly, that is all they have against Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo etc. It's not like they have a huge marketing department, so they have to talk to gaming blogs and say how much crappier everything else is on the market and how souless it is compared to their creations. I understand it to a degree, but it is lame. Let your product do the talking and just do what makes you happy. The term "sellout" is dead to me because if someone made a million off an indy game or album, I doubt they'd give it back.

Harlequiine said...

David, I'm curious to hear if you've played the game Demon's Souls? I'd be quite interested to see what a game designer thinks of it, because it completely and utterly destroys the trends of games nowdays (checkpoints every 2 minutes, regen health, easy difficulty, boring bosses, etc) and also has one of the best and most unique online modes I've ever played.

And yet, it's my personal (and Gamespot's) GOTY, purely for a gameplay standpoint because it is just so, so fun. It is the first game this generation that made me sit up and finish it within a couple of days -- and it took me 18 hours!

If you haven't heard anything about the online mode, seriously check it out because it made the game about twice as fun -- especially the co-op & PVP, but the hint system was excellent.

I'm just intrigued to hear what a game designer thinks of the fact that a game that finally didn't play it safe and stick with the current trends of games has been so successful.

Unknown said...

I haven't really thought about indie vs commercial games as competing in the same market, but I now realize that of course they are. I used to wonder why some games were 'indie' when all they really were was 3rd party developer titles (not-pwned-by-publisher-developers). I do love the games that people spend years to make without intention of making profit (doesn't bother me when they do, just games that were made for other purposes than product promotion or profit) vs the games that were made with vast resources. I think it would really help if we dropped the idea of indie altogether and focused on what the games are all about instead of the principles of the makers.

Unknown said...

David, there was one particular event in the indie community - which is referenced elsewhere in the comments - which I now realize is motivating a lot of your comments here.

To which I say - yeah, I think it sucked too. But I don't believe most people making independent games think that way - in fact, most people just want to see cool, different games made by smaller teams, no matter if they're offshoots of larger companies or bedroom indies.

And yes, the reason the Mega64 clip is funny is that it has the ring of truth to it. I guess I'm just hoping that focusing and amplifying one of the most negative events in the indie scene in recent years won't perpetuate the hate.

But overall, it's a fair comment - some bedroom indies see any developer with an office and a track record in the biz as a potentially cloaked version of 'the man'. Hoping we'll all evolve from that position, and I still think it's a small minority who believe it.

lonelyspacepanda said...

When the mainstream is vilified and marginalized, I always think of the story of how Darren Aronofsky sat down for his first day at AFI. It was a screenwriting class and the teacher said, "If you want to make Hollywood crap like Terminator 2 than get out of my class", so Aronofsky thought "but I love T2" and he walked out and went on to make some of the most memorable indie flicks of the past decade (Pi, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream).

I like this story and I relate it to your post, because I think it's important to be open-minded toward both mainstream and independent creators. Great things come from both sides, and the more in communication you are with all developers the better your games will be (as proven by the substantial progress Uncharted, Rachet & Clank, and Modern Warfare all made this year by keep close ties to each other).

You can't blame the indie minority for being a very vocal bunch, as they are the David to Activision's Goliath but what's more important isn't the table-side manners of it all but that healthy, productive discussion continues amongst all developers so we get better and more original games.

To be fair, though, it's easy to hate big publishers when shit franchises like Spec Ops and True Crime get renewed just for the sake of name-brand recognition, nevermind the fact that the name is associated with games that no one liked.

Unknown said...

Yaa, it reminds of those people who make films just to do a "making of doc." They just really crave their recognition and the attention. If your indie and you make games. You should be making them to provide something fun to do (or interested that is still interactive).

PS Mega64 is awesome. Did you ever think of doing a Marcus' Corner episode? They interviewed Cory Barlog.

Alec said...

Like any field, there are legitimate, honest people and there are attention whores.

Find the things you like regardless of what they're labelled.

In this case, branding either group as "lame" is a waste of time.