I made it no secret for a very long time that I hated indie games. I hated the games, I hated the people who made them, I hated the whole obnoxious scene associated with it. I mean, I used to love them way back in the day. The whole idea of video games being something more than what they were did, and still does, fascinate me to no end. I wanted artistic games. I wanted experimental games. I wanted games that subverted old cliches in interesting ways.
What I got, for a long time, was garbage: Barely interactive Braid rip-offs about creepy, misogynist “nice guys” pining over a barista they saw at Starbucks that were meant to be based on the author, and not some heavy-handed take on Pick Up Artists. Indie Game Gate-Keepers throwing temper tantrums and referring to games that had guns or explosions as “not being indie enough.” People continuing to uphold Jason Rohrer as a misunderstood genius after he did an interview in which he nonchalantly admitted to abusing his family and forcing to them to live in squalid conditions. Blatantly ripping off (maybe even recoloring) Cave Story’s graphics, putting them in a shit platformer, and calling yourself an artist. Embarrassing presentations where game designers literally screamed and called for a hostile takeover of the industry because people were buying Halo.
It was obnoxious. I wanted nothing to do with these assholes. So I spent years going in the opposite direction. I embraced the mainstream with open arms. Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, you name it. If it was AAA, I was all over it. I wanted my shit to be loud and stupid, because hey, even if it insulted my intelligence, at least Cliff Blezinski never told a woman to shut up and give him a blowjob because he didn’t win an IGF award. In a lot of ways, I’m glad I did play these, as it gave me a new appreciation that big and popular doesn’t always mean cynically produced trash (Gears 3 is one of the absolute best games you could possibly play). It gave me a chance to take a look and realize that Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is actually pretty amazing, whereas a lot of folks would (and did) totally pass over it.
So what changed?
Well, funny enough, it wasn’t Gamergate attacking indie developers like you would probably guess. This started a little bit before trying to murder women over video games had an actual name besides “assholes.” Even as recently as this past Summer, I straight up said I didn’t think Twine games counted as “real” games. This was, of course, before I made two of them, with a third one on the way. I associated an entire engine with “indie” and I wanted nothing to do with it.
It was just me growing up a bit. Getting tired of day one DLC and cut-and-paste jobs. Tired of the same old shit. It was the “scene,” as it were, growing up as well. The elitist clowns running the show back then are either gone, went into the woman-hating mainstream sector they always wanted to belong to, or completely irrelevant. In their place are decent human beings with an appreciation for art, programming, music, writing, and many other things that make up a good vid con. Decent human beings that, admittedly, I would never have known about had a couple of them not reached out to me after getting a look at my design ideas. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not some perfect utopia, not with the Roguestars and Destructive Creations of the world running around. And one only needs to look at XBox Live Indie Games, App Stores, and parts of itch.io and see all the shameless clones of pre-existing games still about. But it’s better now. It’s no longer this shameful extension of the same shit plaguing the big time studios. It’s something that I would like to be a part of.