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Why Indie Remains Misunderstood

By on December 9, 2010

This is a guest post by freelance narrative designer, Tom Jubert. Check out his industry blog, Plot is Gameplay’s Bitch, at http://blog.tomjubert.com/

The conversation I have with non-industry types more frequently than any other – save for, perhaps, the “Wait, video games have stories?” one – is the “Why do you give a shit about enabling 13 – 30 year old males to blow one another up?” one. It can be a real drag because while I enjoy AAA as much as the next lad it’s not what I’m all about. It’s something developers, particularly independent ‘arty’ types, complain about a lot. But I have to say: I kinda understand.

Even when I talk to people inside the industry it’s somewhat shocking to discover many have no concept that there exists an entire scene of development that revolves around unpaid passion, and metaphor, and meaning; rather than $20 million budgets and sod off great fireworks. It’s difficult to get my head around sometimes because I’m so involved with studios like Ice-Pick Lodge, and so entirely sold by blogs like RPS and Grand Text Auto, that the AAA perspective doesn’t seem in the least bit pervasive.

The way I usually explain my passion for interactive narrative is this. Say I’d never seen a film before, walked into my local Odeon, and took a glance at the posters on the wall; it’s fair to say I’d conclude that cinema was all about giant robots that turn into cars, and super spies who closer resemble one man howitzers. Fortunately,we’re all intimately familiar with the medium of film, to the degree that we understand there’s a whole world of cinema that goes beyond that. Film operates on broadsheet reviews, word of mouth and knowing Christmas purchases that introduce people to new, more challenging material.

On the flip side, the only contact my mum has with video games is watching my little cousins blow the hell from each other on the PS3 after lunch on Christmas day. That and Panorama documentaries talking about video game addiction (which, by the way, I thought was quite a fair discussion). Her conclusion that video games are for kids is entyirely ignorant, but thoroughly understandable given the evidence our industry presents her. Her belief that if I’d chosen to write for film – or even Eastenders – I’d be a ‘proper writer’, is something I can forgive.

That successful indie / art releases like The Path and Braid are only the tip of the iceberg is something I hope we can bring to the fore over the coming years. Until then let’s be grateful that free product like The Marriage, Galatea and Infinite Ocean even exist, and let’s do our best to support them in our own industry before we expect them to make iplayer’s top ten.

Regardless of genre, there’s never been a more exciting time to develop interactive entertainment.

About Tom Jubert

Tom Jubert is a freelance games writer / narrative designer, best known for his work on the Penumbra series, for which he was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award. His upcoming releases include Lost Horizon and Driver: San Francisco. He was previously the Managing Editor at GameShadow.com, and has also spent time in production.
  • Chris Swan

    Agreed 100% Tom. I likewise have the same frustrations that creativity and diversity are so well identified with music and film, but it’s a difficult path to take when it comes to gaming. Right now it’s just too damn hard to stay on top of the indie scene: I end up browsing numerous daily blogs and forums, and chat to many fellow indie gamers, but we still manage to each miss out on many great titles.

    A shameless affiliated plug to finish, but this is one of the central issues that IndieCity is aiming to fix :-) (www.IndieCity.com)