Indie Games

Games by Adam on 2008-03-01 11:39

I loved video games as a kid. Like probably a lot of kids, I dreamed of writing my own games when I grew up. Which turned out to be exactly what I did.

I dropped out of college to go to work at a game company, and proceeded to spend the next five years pouring my heart and soul into various game projects: Revenant, an RPG for the PC; Savage Quest, an arcade game; Red Dead Revolver, a shooter for the PS2; and a few other miscellaneous titles that were either never finished (or are better off forgotten).

I left the industry feeling defeated. The magic I had felt as a kid was gone. I couldn’t create the kinds of games I wanted, because of how the game industry had changed. No longer were video games the labor of love of two or three-person teams. They had mutated into big-budget productions, two dozen people on staff, with the demands of the risk-averse publishers trumping creativity and ingenuity.

Since then, I haven’t played a lot of games, though I have found a few worthwhile gems, mostly in the console world. Sly Cooper, Rachet and Clank, Jax and Daxter, Kolona, Prince of Persia. But mostly I’ve stopped playing. I don’t enjoy playing most games for the same reason I didn’t enjoy making them: they’re no longer art.

I had basically stopped paying attention to the game industry, but in the past few months I’ve detected rumblings of a new era for games. It’s part of the user-generated content revolution. Personal blogs are replacing newspapers; YouTube is replacing TV; and now it looks like indie games are fast on track to dethrone the current game industry.

Gish, Aquaria, and Fez are some great examples. These games are really innovative, with unique style, cool visuals and soundtracks, and most importantly, they’re fun. All of them were made by teams of three people or less, working from home, with no budget to speak of.

I also find it interesting that many of the traits common in games in the late 80s and early 90s are making a comeback in these games. Fez is reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers; Aquaria is reminiscent of Metroid. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. SMB and Metroid had magic. Most games available now do not.

But they aren’t just recycling old technology or pursuing nostalgia for its own sake. They take advantage of modern technology to do things you could never do in old games. Fez creates a 3D world, even though the controls and gameplay are very close to Super Mario Brothers and its ilk. Gish is a 2D side-scroller, but your character is a ball of tar which deforms and squishes in ways that are only possible on modern hardware.

This episode of the 1up Show captures the essence of this revolution nicely. All of the discussion here is by self-professed hardcore gamers, and all of them admit: they’re more interested in the small, unique games coming out this year than the big-budget productions. I find this exciting - for the first time in a long time, it seems that I’m not the only one yearning for more innovation in video games.

4 comments per 'Indie Games'

  1. Adam @ Dusk » Internet Time-Wasters says:

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