Why do they fear indie gaming?

GI_cover

 

In September’s issue of Game Informer the “esteemed” publication seems to be initiating its own quiet assassination concurrent with the #GamerGate wars of Twitter.  While they do not seem to have leapt on the “fuck all gamers” bandwagon with most major games reporting outlets, they do seem to be digging beneath the walls that separate major gaming from indie gaming.  Turn to the two-page spread on 31 and Behold! Matt Bertz throws down his wall-less theory of gaming entitled ‘The Mutating Meaning of the Word “Indie.”‘  I call offended and uproarious bullshit.  Indie isn’t mutating, it means just what it always has: independent.  What this should be entitled is “Why we want to destroy the meaning behind the term indie.”  Strap in, this another rant of bombastic proportions.

Bertz poses the following question in the first paragraph, which will serve as the thesis for the GI article:

“When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision, what does becoming indie really mean?”

I am a firm believer that within each question lie the roots of its own answer.  In my opinion, the answer Matt wants you to come out with is “When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers, being ‘indie’ really has no meaning.”  He then goes on to try discrediting the term indie saying that the number and style of the projects that fall into the category “indie” that the term is no longer “useful.”  That is a charming thought but being indie is more than just “breaking away from the standard studio-publisher” model.  Sure, that is a major centerpiece for the concept, but that is not the only thing it’s contingent upon.  Going rogue in the gaming industry takes serious balls, especially in the face of major publishers that are trying to muscle into the region of indie gaming.  The simple fact is that being an indie developer means putting in countless thankless hours developing a game that will likely be swallowed up by the sea of other small titles.  Sure, indie as a genre is useless, which is why people need to stop letting Steam make them think indie just means an artistic game with hand-crafted backgrounds and a bizarre concept.  Indie isn’t a genre of gaming; it is a community of indifferent rebellion.

Bertz then takes two indie developers, Cloud Imperium Games of Star Citizen fame and Lucas Pope of Papers, Please, lays them against each other and claims a multi-million dollar company, such as Cloud Imperium, and lone developers residing in the same sphere degrades the purpose of calling something indie.  Honestly, anyone that would make this claim is just fooling themselves.  I don’t wholly blame Bertz, either.  His misconception is one born of an artistic medium still striving against its own over-bearing identity to define itself properly.  Taking an example from the music industry, Eminem has his own record label and I would call it an independent record label.  At the time of its inception, Shady Records was not a giant in the industry, but it surpassed those lofty heights.  Just because he ‘got big’, doesn’t mean he ever stopped being independent.  Likewise, when developers such as Lucas Pope or Mojang become big they don’t stop being indie developers.  Sure, indie is a genre of music, and that community defines itself with easily identifiable features: retro glasses, a taste for music no one has heard of, flannel.  But Bertz is suggesting that gaming has to take on the same restrictive reasoning.  You are defined by an easily identifiable array of elements that collaboratively structure “how indie games are supposed to be.”  The point of indie development is that there is no structure.  You can create whatever crazy fucking idea you have concocted.  Like Minecraft, possibly the most successful indie game of all time.  Even those musical miscreants labeling themselves as indies listen to a respectable variety of musical types ranging from rock to chiptunes.  Trying to label them all as the same ‘genre’ is just as useful as stating indie games are all the same ‘genre’.

I reported on a fantastic game crowdfund which found itself on IndieGoGo called X-Tactics.  This is a game that will be developed by veterans of Square-Enix, Capcom and Sega, and, as far as I know, it will be an indie game.  This is because it will be a game developed under a name and publisher separate from the major development community.  Other major developers have broken away from the gilt Alcatraz of major gaming and gone rogue.  This sort of thing happens in music all the time with supergroups of famous stars that get together to form an awesome musical entourage.  They don’t feel the need to label themselves indie, although many found independent record labels, I would speculate this is due to a lack of oppressive horseshit experienced in the gaming indusrty.  They have their own struggles with record labels and within their industry, and I am not trying to diminish their battles.   But when you look at the size of the gaming industry and its unrivaled power to crush dreams, the music industry seems positively navigable.  Lorne Lanning, creator of the Oddworld series, is another of these major names, and Oddworld is a game that deserves to call itself indie.  In his interview on VG247 he goes into exhausting detail about why major developers would ever go indie, but my favorite line is:

“I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.”

Yea he really says that, and more, but saying ‘established developers going indie would similarly render it useless’ is equally quaint.  The fact is that major developers are terrified of indie developers.  Scared down to their quivering, flaccid cores of achieving the same level of irrelevance populated by Leigh Alexander and Anita Sarkeesian.  But why would they be afraid?  Here’s why:

Some people estimate that Mojang made 84.2 million USD and 66.4 million Euros from Minecraft in 2012.  Sure, they are on the Minecraft forum, but they were estimating out of nerdy interest and had no real motivation other than spontaneous curiosity.   If a fraction of that is true, it still doesn’t account for the numerous other countries that play Minecraft and how much money they’ve spent on it.  When Mojang became a money machine overnight the collective bowels of major game publishers voided into unsuitably diminutive pants.  Mojang showed that a bizarre game with a solid concept and motivation can conquer the world, and they didn’t have to pass through the close-guarded gates built by major developers.  Simply put, major developers weren’t getting a share of that money.  That millions and millions of currency of your choice, and it hurt.  If not in their pockets, somewhere deep in their dark, dusty souls.

Turning back to Berts, he goes on to attack indie from numerous angles: big budgets, large staff, companies that make both major games and indie games, and honestly he continues attempting to discredit the concept of indie games.  It is a shoddy attempt to convolute the real issue behind the conversation.  See, major publishers see everyone jumping ship for this concept of “freedom.”  More and more, major developers are leaving them, and, like a jilted ex, major publishers try to bring them back.  This article points to companies like Ubisoft, which was responsible for Valiant Hearts, and says that the “easily identifiable elements” that make these games ‘indie’ are artistic, retro features of a game that make it bizarre or deviant from the norm of gaming.  Thing is, this article tries to make it sound like indies are becoming just as independent as major developers, when really major developers are just afraid of becoming as small-time as indie.  They are afraid of the change in the industry bringing about new giants and contenders and themselves losing relevance in the swarm of rising stars.  Mostly, this is just the result of gamers becoming largely disenfranchised by major publishers, who want to make the same bullshit over and over and have us swallow their crap forever.  The fact is, funding autonomous studios to make games for you is nice, but the fact is if your game is published and distributed by someone like Sony or Ubisoft, you aren’t independent, which is the source-word of indie.  You are just following the same tired model of the studio-publisher model except that they grant you a little more freedom.  Because that is what is making money nowadays, right?  Indie games are innovative and bold in ways that major publishers don’t have the balls to be, they’re creative in ways that major distributors can’t rely on and they’re unpredictable in ways that can’t be monetized by a massive company effectively.  Indie games are indie games because they succeed by their own virtue, not under the cultivation of a major publisher, which has all the power of a totalitarian propaganda machine at its disposal.

Then again, I am reading this in Game Informer, a magazine that is commonly perused by the Mountain Dew and Doritos abusing target audience of major publishers.  Not like they would ever publish an article that is biased in favor of the people who directly profit from the sale of games created by major publishers (who publish this rag mag), rather than the sale of indie games that sell through Steam or even indiedevs’ websites.  My suggestion is to refer to “indie” games that have been incubated and published by the likes of Sony, Activision et al as subbed indies:  Independent games that are subsidized by major publishers.  Granted, people will likely not care about the distinction, as long as the game is fucking fun.  I just find it annoying when they say the label is no longer “relevant” or “useful” just because major industry gaming thinks so.  Indie games should remain indie because it keeps them from being enslaved by major companies that just want to put their dick in it and soak up profits.

Have your own crotchety thoughts on this?  Join the discussion in my Steam group, Crotchety Gamers United!

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Dear Game Informer: You’re a Fucking Asshole

gibastard

 

Game Informer is a major gaming magazine that is apparently written by assholes.  Now, the reason I receive it is because my wife got the Powerup rewards card at Gamestop.  This was when she got our 3DS ‘s and Pokemon X and Y.  I pick it up and peruse it whenever it comes in, and it often shows me some surprisingly good indie games I hadn’t yet heard about.  But this month was different.  This month I got to pages 28-29 of the July 2014 issue and was met with this woven monstrosity called “The Indie Game Flowchart”.  I would tell you that IndieDevs are the sole reason for true ingenuity and without those with the balls to run free in the capitalist wilds, there would never be any innovation or progress in gaming at all.  We would all be playing COD and WOW rip-offs.  This is a rage article of crotchety proportions, so if you don’t like it, fuck off.  Game Informer needs to sit down and shut the fuck up.

This article, written by some mimsy tart named Joe Juba, has this text blurb to start you off:

If you want to make an indie game, you need to be driven by passion.  Maybe you want to tell a personal story, or experiment with a never-before-seen genre.  Realizing this dream might require years of work and your life savings, but it could be worth the struggle.  What is your reward at the end of the journey?  Follow our flowchart to find out.  You might earn instant credibility, vast wealth, or cheap statuettes from an indusrty awards show.

– Joe Jube, Game Informer, Issue July 2014, Page 28

You might think “O, that’s not so bad!  He just gave the indie devs some credit for drive and passion.  Not to mention experimenting with genres and some other things!”  Honestly, sure, he does, but then he cheapens it with a giant flowchart that mocks the entirety of Indie Developers and what the real goal is as an IndieDev.  While the article is a comedy-rag with sarcasm dripping from its pages, one should keep in mind that comedy is a form of philosophy where they cause you to laugh by showing you the truth (in this case Juba’s perception of the truth) and making you see it in an entertaining light.  Just watch Louie C.K. or George Karlin.  Hell, nearly every comic uses elements of real-life in their shows, and that makes them artists in a way.  This is just flat-out mockery of a people who have no real centralized way of responding.

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

At start is says “So you want to be an indie. What is the first priority?”  Move on to the first offense, “Fun, good gameplay“.  The next box after that just says “wrong” and directs you to the other option out of the gate “A cool art style.”  Now stop right there you fucking pricks.  Did you just see that?  With a quick flick of the goddamn wrist, this slimy little fuck says that indie games as a whole do not have fun, good gameplay and rely on art style.  FUCK NO!  I can name plenty of games off the top of my head in varying genres that have great gameplay with great art all the way to shit art and fabulous gameplay.  Minecraft, for instance, has arguably simplistic art.  Most Super Nintendo titles had more advanced textures.  The gameplay is the redeeming part of this game, and spawned several genres.  THAT was the work of one fucking guy in a goddamn basement, NOT the result of the industry’s method-at-large, which is typically “who fucking cares how mindless the gameplay is, just art it up with pretty graphics and fantastic visuals so that no on notices.”  Want another?  Sure.  Hard Reset.  That is a game with some pretty graphics, great ambiance and an artistic method of doing cut-scenes in a comic book style.  The gameplay, however, is a ton of fun, allowing you to blow shit up and use a variety of weapons with the same two “guns” and elminating the question of where you keep that bazooka.  Sure, the story is a little confusing at times, but Half-life 2 had as much story as a mass-murderer does.  Shit, Call of Fucking Duty has less story, but that is punching the retarded kid there.  I don’t know where Joe Juba thinks he gets carte blanche to say what he wants about the indie culture, but he is writing for a major fucking magazine.  That, along side his little opening to this masterpiece of douche-baggery, automatically takes away any credibility he truly has with the indie culture.  But he goes on, so, too, must I.

From that box you also see “it needs…” You can go to “blocks like minecraft” and that takes you to the minecraft clones.  This path ends in the Copy-cat award, success by association.  That is a bit funny, but the devs in those games are getting a little short-changed.  Often, the best way to get to new shades of genres are to take the major genre elements of something successful and apply them to other facets and ideas not explored by the majorly referenced work.  This is done all the time with fantasy, with Lord of the Rings as a start, and brings you to people like George R.R. Martin writing dark fantasy worlds that owe their lives and allegiance to Tolkien.  The next major issue I have with this article of short-selling +9000 is “first-person..” leads to “shooter” which leads to the David and Goliath Award, Call of Duty will destroy you.  STOP RIGHT THERE YOU SHITTY LITTLE FUCKFACE!  So, you’re telling me all first-person shooters are in direct competition with COD?  Your taste in games obviously has a diversity comparable to Iceland’s gene pool.  One massive collection of similar-looking people with a few sharply-contrasted elements floating around to emphasize the main body.  Hard Reset and ZenoClash are two indie FPS’s that are nothing like COD and thank god for it!  These titles add elements of diversity to a stagnant pool of genre degeneracy that is characterized by vastly acclaimed titles like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Battlefield…  Seeing some similarities?  And the best part is, the moment that this genre drifts away from the Call of Douchebags FPS standard of “kill da bad guy soljers” it drops in funding, quality and standards.  Don’t believe me?  Thief.  As if I needed to expound further this guy does a way better job at explaining the game’s shortcomings than I could here.  And he tries to defend it with lengthy diatribes of legitimately interesting discussion about how the game could have been better.  Genre diversity is a must, and indie FPS’s offer way more in this respect.

Another off-shoot from that “cool art style” box leads you to “A living painting. Like Braid, but with…” and this section leading to the ‘Too Indie, What about gameplay?’ endpoint that dominates the center of the first page.  This placement is no fucking accident.  This is the way that mainstream gaming stereotypes the indie gaming culture.  I do appreciate their implication that this is the home of the extremist indie games, and thereby not the bulk of them, but this still puts a smear on the community as a whole.  These are apparently the representative items of indie culture that the most people will understand and, thus, it is in a plce that the most people will read, with the bulk of readers giggling a bit here then moving on to their Culla’ Doodie circle jerks.  In this section they include Braid, and a number of weird modifiers.  They also catch these outliers by having First-Person also lead to “Pretentious Interactive Narrative Experience“, which is arguably a way of saying “artistic game experience”.  But another place first-person takes you is were you bought by Valve, in which case you end up at the “Gamer darling Award, Please stop saying the cake is a lie” or elsewhere.  If you say no, it moves on to the next page and “years later”.  This implies that every indie title will take years to complete.  This brings you to “Perfect! You project has the green light! When will it release?”  Two options after: One year, which leads to a delay show at PAX then the second selection, which is two years.  Then another delay show at PAX, and then four years.  This means, fuck you, even if you think that your game will release in a year, after years and not getting bought by Valve, you’ll actually take four years and tons of personal delays to make your game.  That is degraging.  Sure, it may happen to some, but this seems to imply that indie developers cannot adequately structure time schedules.  Because the major industry has ben SOOOOOO fucking good at doing that! Right?  By the way, what was the release date of Half-life 3 again?  Whatever, just play Duke Nukem Forever and you’ll start to get an idea.  In fact, just read this fucking Cracked article.  That should tell you.

But let me skip over to another point of contention.  Following side-scrolling games takes you to the inevitability of “Wait a minute… are you already a major developer?”  One option (No, then keep at it!) takes you to the aforementioned “years later” situation.  The other 2 are “Does Double-Fine count?” and “Yes”.  Yea, you see where I am going with this now.  This gets you to Nice Try, Decades of experience isn’t indie.  FUCK YOU!  You sit there and say that to me?! I wanted to just type a string of random angry characters but quivered with rage for a few moments instead.  Where do you get off saying that indie developers cannot have decades of experience? Do you realize that Sword of the Stars was made by people from Rockstar?  Just because they have been around for a while, doesn’t mean they are not indie.  My understanding is the Double-Fine got to mainstream game dev and backed out because they wanted, I don’t know, some GODDAMN FREEDOM!

Moving right along, there is this other endpoint of Indie Foul! That’s not how this works.  Among the things that lead here are third-person roguelikes with crop-farming and carefully crafted dungeons and collectible creatures.  That takes you to “Look, I don’t know what “roguelike” means”  There are also apparently Third-person roguelikes with spaceships and no permadeath, which also leads here.  Fuck you.  Now we need perma-death in spaceship games to be good?  Fuck you.  My angriest path here leads through the thoroughly convoluted “third-person zombie survival games funded by independent modders who have a well-organized business plan”.  This is apparently no one, as this goes to Indie Foul.  fuck you. again.  The option aside a well-organized business plan is apparently “who get massive community support” and this just has to be a joke.  Having these as separate options basically states that crowd-funding is not part of a well-organized business plan.  Honestly, asking the gaming community to fund your project isn’t the most sure-fire way to get it done, but Kickstarter is for gamedevs that have great ideas and none of the money required.  So I also suggest that, yes, crowd-funding can be a good element of a well-organized business plan.  Other ways to indie foul include an old-school RPG inspired by some N64 RPG’s with retro sprites that was considered as an Ouya exclusive.  There is also a mainstream audience that leads to Indie Foul, but that tells me that this guy thinks the main element of “indie” gaming is that only a couple assholes like it.  This is even more heavily implied by the statement that aiming precise challenges at a few dozen masochists will be enough to get your project the green light.  I am not sure which planet this Joe Juba asshole comes from, but it is one where “indie” means “pretentious dicks that think they know better” rather than, you know, independent.  Indie games can be aimed at mainstream audiences.  The retro style that many take on these days are made to appeal to what a lot of us older gamers played as children.  Oh, I am sorry, not every spoiled-rotten little rat bastard was able to buy games when I was a kid.  In fact, when I was your age, playing games made you the socially awkward nerd that got beat on.  On last path that takes you to Indie Foul! is Border Control Simulator.  I would say this is a jab at all those weird simulator like Rock Simulator, Streetsweeper Simulator and Papers, Please, but those games are a new genre that deals with allowing you to literally live different aspects of real-life.

So now your game is finished.  There are now three results for you left, having dodged the sweeping two-page morass outlined by some ass.  The only thing left is the name.  Three options: First, you can go with something slimy and geometric, like “Gooptahedron”.  The next thing is “that’s free to play, isn’t it?“.  The only selection is yes, or hell yes.  This leads you to the Zero Credibility Award, Money (is not equal to) Quality, which is the only place Joe Juba deserves to be classified.  Granted, he starts off with that whole gooptahedron crack, but this is the only location on the indie flowchart that features free-to-play games.  I can think of a couple really good free-to-play games.  Immediately I am reminded of Gear Up, a multi-player tank-shooter.  So, tell me, you relentless shit, are you saying that all F2P indie games have zero credibility as indie games? Fuck you, again, indie is not about money, it is about independence.  The other two options out of game-finishing are a weird sentence fragement and a single vague word.  Your game is then a success.  Either you say Fuck it, I quit, where you earn the Something Fishy Award, Don’t forget to cancel the sequel and the most insulting thing on this shit-sheet: “beg for money on Kickstarter and try again.”  Yup.  BEG for money you worthless little worms!  Then you can go back to start to begin again.  O, and you remember how, apparently, it takes four years after previous years of delaying to get it done?  Yea, that path leads here, too.

Now, if you read all the way to the end of this article, I give you a lot of credit.  This is a long wall-of-rage-text article with few visual stops.  The point I am making is as follows:  This convoluted two-page spread is just an insidious mockery that attempts to rob the indie gaming and indie developer community of its main source of undeniable respect.  Indie Devs want freedom.  Freedom from major developers to develop as they please, without the back-burner rejection that these types of games would receive from mainstream companies entrenched in the FPS standard, or whatever standard they prefer.  Indie means independent, and that scares the mainstream companies and their little turd-sniffing employees, such as Joe Juba.  Not because they think  we want to be like them and want the money that comes with it, but because we want nothing to do with them, we want to do what we want, and accept the money that comes with it.  This is where indie developers get their real power.  Alongside the fact that indie games are the testing ground for new and interesting concepts that push the industry forward and bend the boundaries of virtual experience like minecraft, which spawned crafting games and survival games like Rust.  For this reason, Indie Gaming is the source of true gaming diversity.  We don’t want our options to be between WoW, CoD and Assassin’s Creed without recourse.   We’re not a bunch of pretentious dorks sitting in a corner of a lunchroom wearing goofy glasses and handlebar mustaches making fun of the “cool COD kids”.  We are a collection of like-minded individuals that are tired of the same old horse shit that mainstream gaming presents.  We are tired of graphically fluorescent games with shit story lines or inept game-play.  We are ready to take gaming into our own hands.  And that scares the ever-loving shit out of them.  If I ever needed physical proof that mainstream gaming resents the indie community to the level that you might call it hate, this is it.