GDC impression: indie games have levelled up

It’s been 6 or 7 years that Auriea and I have been attending one Game Developers Conference or other, first in London and the last few years in San Francisco. Over all those years, speakers have complained about the same thing: games are juvenile, games are only for teenage boys, games are sexist, games are not artistic, etc. The continuous frustration of a medium that wants to be (regarded as) something more and other than it is.

In the first GDCs we attended, this made us hopeful. Because we felt we had a solution to these problems. But as we continued to fail to find a connection with the commercial games industry, we lost that hope. We learned that, although the industry complains about these issues continuously, it had zero intention to change anything.

Last year’s GDC was the year when independent games suddenly seemed to be the new thing, the most exciting area in the industry, where at the very least, people were making games for the love of it. This year, the excitement was still there. And the complaints were still there. But they were expressed in the most vehement and passionate manner ever. Heather Chaplin’s raging rant about how game developers are stunted and sexist juveniles brought a tear to my eye. But the main point of her talk was that we should stop making excuses about the medium’s young age, and start working on solutions for the problems.

And this is where independent games come in. As opposed to the desperation that accompanied the complaints over the previous years, this year everybody’s hopes were directed towards independent games. So much so that Clint Hocking even warned AAA game developers that if they didn’t change their ways, they would be rendered irrelevant by indie games. And I guess the AAA took note. We have entertained both Hideo Kojima and Fumito Ueda at our little booth in the Independent Games Festival this year. Warren Spector came by several times but we sadly missed the opportunity to talk to him. I have spotted Will Wright circling the indie floor. And who knows who that guy was with the funny name on his badge but looking so much like Cliffy B…

Anyway. Andy Schatz was pleading for unity between indie games and AAA games during the IGF awards ceremony. But it seems like AAA games will benefit more from this relationship than we will. Last year’s plaything has turned into this year’s hope for the future of the medium. Now I’m really curious about what will happen next year!

Because it’s not just that indie games have always been around and suddenly became fashionable. It is also important to note that the quality and diversity of independent games has increased tremendously over the past few years. So rather than sitting on our mini-laurels, I hope we continue on this path and make games that push the medium into territories that it always hoped to reach (or falsely claimed it had).

8 thoughts on “GDC impression: indie games have levelled up”

  1. Then it’s not just me who’s started to feel this way…

    I’m excited to think that this might be a real trend – indie games growing in depth and quality. And being recognized for it. I will hope to join your ranks soon. 😀

    Best of luck continuing to push the medium and following this path! (following the path?)

  2. Well, before this GDC you said that the “independent” developers, in fact, are not. Can you call any names that made you change your mind?

  3. I didn’t change my mind. Yet. But there seems to be a growing expectation from independent games. Not entirely justified in my opinion. But the potential is there. So I’m hopeful. And I’ll do what I can to stimulate things.

  4. The potential might be there, but indie games have started to develop both ways: one more conforming and the other more innovative. Isn’t it simply the fact that indie game developer can produce games that can compete with the AAA’s that makes the industry interested? And they’d like to know how they pulled it off on a tight budget.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about money for them…

  5. Fantastic, glad to hear that you are gaining faith in the industry. After reading your interview with Dieubussy above, I was concerned (although it’s not my place I guess) that you were a little detracted from the industry.

    It’s exciting to be part of a movement of gamers slowly focusing on the medium’s development outside the mainstream. I may be a little late, but I am glad to know I am one of many who are starting to look at the interactive medium a little more critically.

    Anyway, just thought I’d drop by and was nicely surprised to find a blog of sorts. Will be keeping updated on this.

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