Indy-Minded Strangeness

Though I just dropped a ridiculous amount of change on games during Steam's Autumn Sale event, I have to confess, I barely played any of it. I got over Fallen Enchantress quickly enough.  Fable III got a cursory glance.  Largely untouched go Sims 3, Civilization V, Cities In Motion, and so on.  Apparently I'd rather buy something else (Drox Operative) than play any of those, and now not even that.

The most I've done lately is play a bit of Borderlands 2 with my bro and a high school bud, in the evenings, when one or both is at home.  Until the evening, I've looked down my entire list of games I own, and the only thing that really appealed to me enough to consider trying was Minecraft, a game I bought years ago.
So I'm a little boggled about what's going on right now.  I'm a lifelong gamer, and yet, I find myself possessed by a certain Indy-Minded Strangeness right now.  Big budget games usually don't impress me.  Drox Operative and Minecraft, strange independently-developed games both, do.

To spin a theory, it comes down to three things:
  • The attack of the clones.  For about two decades, I've been hit with clone game after clone game.  I can enjoy an imitation or two, particularly when it's being done better than the original, but there reaches a certain point where a given game mechanic has been completely done to death, and I'm afraid nearly everywhere I look in PC Gaming I can see that.
  • The attack of the casuals.  In the latest decade, there's been a focus on pleasing the "casual gamer," a mythical beast who enjoys horribly dumbed down games.  When so many games being produced are being produced for a niche other than myself, again, why should I be surprised I've lost interest in gaming? 
  • The defense of making my own games.  I have to say, the creative flow of making something actually exceeds the enjoyment I get out of playing a game.  There's terrible, brain-breaking moments of complete lack of progress, but when things go well... mere gaming is a somewhat inferior pastime.   Right now, I've fallen off that wagon, although I'm working on getting back up on it. 
So how did I end up becoming "indy-minded" from all this?

Independent developers have one big advantage over big budget games: they don't have a big budget.  I'm aware that should be a disadvantage, not an advantage, but it actually makes a pretty big difference in the kind of game you can make:
  • Having a big budget means you have a whole lot of money to repay your investors.  
  • Having a whole lot of money to repay your investors means you need to sell a lot of copies.  
  • Selling a lot of boxes requires a huge audience.  
  • Because you need a huge audience, you look to where you know your audiences are, and develop a game that targets the tried-and-true.  In other words, you make a clone game.
  • Because you need a huge audience, you shoot for where you think the greatest audience can be found.  A lot of developers believe this to be the "casual gamers."  Thus, you make a "casual" game.
In this way, big budget equivocates to casual-friendly clones.  No wonder there's been so many of them!  Unfortunately for me, the clone-sick core gamer, this approach is crap.  Apparently, big budget games are simply intended for a different audience.  (Although there are exceptions which gives me some hope that big business hasn't completely killed everything interesting in gaming.)

Indy developers avoid all this by not having a big budget.
  • No big budget means they don't need to sell many of their copies to recoup their development costs.
  • Not needing to sell many copies means they don't have to produce clones, the tried and true, instead they can experiment.
  • Not needing to sell many copies also means that, instead of producing something bland that is intended to please everyone (and may end up pleasing no one), they can develop something fantastic intended for small niches of core gamers.
In this way, a lack of big budget equivocates to games that can be extremely pleasing to a core niche of players.  Which is awesome, except when you happen to be outside of that core niche of players, in which case you should probably just be looking elsewhere.  Of course, some Indy games suck out loud but, dammit, at least they're trying to innovate, and their occasional success is almost the only reason I have to remain a gamer at all.

Comments

Popular Posts