Audiences & Experiences — Week 2 (Viewing / Reviewing)

This is the second week of my reviews of the readings we have been provided for my games design masters course.

This week, I began by watching a presentation by Bennett Foddy at Indiecade 2014. This presentation discussed the meaning behind what an indie game is, whether the “age” of indie is over, and the history behind it all. I did not realise indie developers struggled so much between 1983–2000 due to almost a power imbalance between the indie developers and the creators of the consoles that they were trying to develop for.

As someone who used Game Maker 3 back in school for my own personal projects, seeing some of the earlier versions of software going back this far is really interesting to see, as it really shows how the advent of software that makes games easier to produce helped grow the indie development scene. The arrival of self-distribution methods such as flash and places like Newgrounds also likely massively helped with this, which Foddy also covered in this presentation.

The second thing we were asked to do was to read through some sources that were provided in our reading list. The first I read was an article on gamestudies.org by Maria B. Garda, which covered the meaning behind the term indie game, its conceptual history, and how it was often used as a buzzword in media. Garda also covered what their goals are in writing this piece, stating that they “believe that independent games historiography could benefit from better understanding of the concept itself and the way it is used in the discourse.”

The second source I read into was “Indie Eh? Some kind of Game Studies” by Bart Simon. This one struck me as a less academic take on the subject, using what almost appears as more informal language. This was especially evident in the title and opening paragraphs. “What is this Indie thing?”. Again this article tries to question what an indie game is, and how the term could be interpreted.

The third article was another article on Gamasutra, covering indie more in relation to how they are presented, how indie news isn’t really shown, and how first impressions are extremely important for indie developers due to competition being extremely fierce nowadays. It also highlighted how important social platforms such as discord have become for game developers who want to grow their audience — A large number of game developers, particularly when it comes to indie games, now have dedicated discord servers where they announce news relating to their games.

The last article of the reading list I had the chance to read over was that of “Ten indie games that will make you feel things.” This article covered a list of indie games of which I don’t think I’ve heard of any of before, which really highlights what was explained in the previous gamasutra article about how so many games like these are just completely missed by the mass audiences due to lack of marketing budget or simply a theme that can be easily skimmed over. The one game from this list that I did recognise was that of “To The Moon” which was listed in a P.S. at the end. A large number of these games have a good message though, and make you want to feel some kind of emotion, or feel a particular way. It’s very clear to me that this isn’t something that’s as common in AAA titles, which tend to focus on immaculate gameplay and aesthetic above all else.

This week we were also told to choose two of three games from a selection, as well as one of our own choosing to play and discuss whether these games are or are not “indie” games.

The game of my choosing in this case was “Hades” by SuperGiant Games. I feel that games made by this studio are of extremely high quality, but are made off the studios own previous successes rather than money coming from other investors or companies. While this studio is far larger than it was when it created the likes of “Bastion”, it’s still a relatively small team relative to those of AAA status.

The second game I played some of was “A Desktop Love story”. I love this game thematically, it’s extremely cute, and the way it functions mechanically is fairly unique, requiring the player to move files around in order to do things rather than playing from within the game exe file like most games would have you do. It’s quite evident that this game is indie by design, being thematically in the same kind of realm as what you would consider “indie”, and I imagine it’s also developed by one person or a very small studio.

The third game I played was “a Museum of Dubious Splendors” by Studio Oleomingus. This one was an odd experience, essentially telling a series of short stories with rooms attached filled with objects relevant to the stories. Some of these I struggled to follow along with, but it was an interesting experience that gave me the same sort of feel as some of Davey Wreden’s work that we have explored previously on the course. To me this strikes me as something strongly in the category of indie game, as it’s something with a distinct message and it feels distinctly indie in its design, as well as having been developed by a two person studio presumably on a small budget, with no outside publisher.