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GCG Feature: ‘The Indie Ethos’

What does ‘indie’ really mean in the game space? The game industry’s version of punk rockers might say it has to do with not taking publisher funding, while the po-mo crowd says it has more to do with artistic intent. GameCareerGuide.com
November 20, 2007
What does ‘indie’ mean in terms of video games? Does the game have to be developed within a certain budget? Are all self-funded games considered indie without further criteria? A new article on sister web site GameCareerGuide.com searches for truth about whether ‘indie’ is an ethos or simply a hand-to-mouth state. In this excerpt, Jill Duffy begins to unpack the term, and looks to indie games experts for their requirements for using the word: “If it is the developers -- the people -- that make a game ‘indie,’ then one still must question what criteria those people should meet. Although it’s straightforward to say a team of four developers working with a self-funded $1,500 budget is indeed making an independent game, what happens when the studio is 10 people strong and has a budget of tens of thousand of dollars, but the money comes from the individuals on the team refinancing their homes? What happens when the team is 15 people strong and is backed by several hundred thousand dollars in venture capital? How do both money and team size play into the picture? ‘It’s not a scale issue’ for Indicade, according to [Indiecade Festival chair Celia] Pearce. ‘We have one-man studios or 20. We have [games that were supported by] funding. … If you look at the social ecology of other media, say film, the whole indie film scene is mixed in with mainstream films,’ she says. ‘You can have a game that’s indie that’s on the PlayStation now.’ Alice Taylor [vice president of digital content for BBC Worldwide and author of the blog Wonderland] says the word ‘indie’ in other mediums such as film or music has ‘a kind of base level,’ but for games, she says the amount of learning, effort, and technology required to make a game must be acknowledged, and therein lies the difference. Sam Roberts, director of the Indiecade Festival, agrees, noting that there are more low-cost options for musicians and filmmakers nowadays than there are for game-makers. In the last 10 or 15 years, the barrier of entry for filmmakers and musicians has dropped dramatically, with more and more low-cost tools and digital equipment becoming available, and with more and more outlets for releasing finished products. For game developers, on the other hand, the barrier of entry is still quite high, seeing as even low-cost tools require the user to have some knowledge of programming." You can now read the complete article about the “indie” debate on GameCareerGuide.com.

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