No Thanks, I’d Rather Play Indie

August 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

It seems my PS3 got imbued with a sense of taste at some point in its lifetime. After spending upwards of ten hours playing through the sublime Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay the console decided to die on me just a couple of hours in to the good, but inferior Assault on Dark Athena.

My first thoughts after the incident were understandably bad, not least because a rented game was now stuck in my console, but after being absent from HD gaming for two months now things really aren’t as bad as they initially seemed. I’ve discovered the wonders of indie gaming you see.

Most PC gamers are no stranger to indie titles. These games, often released very cheaply or even for free, are characterised by their small development teams and minimal budgets. Surprisingly (for me at least) this did not lead to a drop in quality in most cases, I’ve in fact found many of my favourite games this year have been indie releases. I only discovered this scene because my $400 console broke, so what needs to happen to get more gamers into this position?

A simple answer might be that with the sheer quantity of free games available it’s always going to be impossible to easily jump into. The low barrier to entry means that anyone can put a game out on the internet for free. If everyone were a born game developer this wouldn’t be a problem, but as it stands there are thousands of games out there of a questionable quality.

It doesn’t help that major game sites (think IGN, Gamespot) – where a huge majority of gamers get their information from – rarely pay much attention to these games. On the occasion they do get mentioned, it’s usually tucked away in some dingy corner, separated from the ‘big boy’ releases. Game of the Year awards rarely include any indie titles, which has lead to this assumption that they’re somehow inferior to Triple-A releases, which of course many of them aren’t.

There is some quality writing to be found about the ‘scene’ for anyone who cares to look for it. Destructoid’s ‘Indie Nation’ series as well as Bitmob’s own ‘The Indie Scene: A to Z’ column both highlight the best releases, and anyone at all interested would do well to check these articles out.

Another factor acting against indie games is that they hardly have a presence on consoles, where the majority of gamers currently get their fix. This has changed this generation with the advent of download services such as PSN or XBL but the economy of releasing on these platforms doesn’t allow for games to be released for free, a problem when the more eccentric indie games are very much a love it or hate it affair. It’s also a problem that a game’s quality needs to be assessed before it can make it onto a console, which, at the end of the day, will be someone’s subjective opinion.

I hate to say it, but with the closed nature of consoles, this situation is never going to change. At least a select few titles can make it through though, such as Everyday Shooter, and Cave Story.

For some the low graphical fidelity will prove too much, despite the clever methods many developers use to cover it up. No matter how good the gameplay, or how deep the experience, there will always be those put off by how a game looks. For these people there is no solution, and it’s unfortunate that they are the ones holding the purse strings of our industry.

The odds are stacked against the indie games of this wold, and you’re never going to see Passage plastered across billboards at Times Square. If it wasn’t this way it simply wouldn’t feel right though, it just wouldn’t be indie…


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