This is the first in a series of articles I will be writing. Whether you agree or disagree with my views I thank you for taking the time to read it.


 

I have been creating little games & trying out various game-related ideas for over 30 years now.

With so much experience and interest in games & their development you may wonder why I am not an Indie Game Developer (IGD).  People have certainly asked me that question many times.

The short answer is today’s Indie Game Developers are not who I am. You see… to me the majority of them do not represent what being an IGD means to me.

 

The Indie Game Developer Mindset

In truth, the mindset of the majority of modern Indie Game Developers (or at least most of the wanna-be IGDs) makes me feel more than a little disgusted.

These days everyone (and their brother, sister, aunt, uncle, nieces, nephews, mom, dad, sons and daughters) can make games and a lot of them are making games.

And I think most of them are making games for the wrong reason and others who are making games under the label of Indie Game Developer are just riding on the popularity of the term for marketing reasons.

When it comes right down to it money is the #1 reason so many people are getting into game development.

It ‘s true. Money has become the driving force of people to become IGDs today.

 

Did You Know It Wasn’t Always This Way?

Hobbyist Game Developers (HGDs) have been making games for a long time now. Truly for decades. And these people were seen as Indie Game Developers at the time.

What made these people different from the modern IGDs was primarily in their motivation… in the reasons they were making games. There were other differences and I will get to them a bit later on.

For the HGD, a game is a remarkable thing. A way to build a new experience. This challenge and excitement of building (and eventually playing) a new (albeit virtual) world populated with whatever inhabitants they chose and governed by whatever laws they created was their primary driving force.

Often they filled in the niches overlooked by the big AAA game development companies who deemed such interests were not profitable enough for them to go after. Some of these HGDs even built solid businesses around their games. However, their work was really a labor of love. A hobby. Driven by their passion. They would have developed these games whether they received any fame or money for their efforts or not.

 

Compared To The Indie Game Developers Of Today… This Is A Huge Difference.

Most modern IGDs (or again at least most of the modern wanna-be IGDs) say their passion is games or making games. I, for one, do not believe that is true in the majority of cases. I believe their passion is to make money by developing games. If many of them knew they would make very little to no money from their game development efforts they would not spend the time making games in the first place.

Certainly many of them come and go. They make a game and then hit with the reality of making no to very little money they move on to what they see as greener pastures. So long and good riddance I say. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

They have no passion for games or game development. If they did they would stick with making them without any need to achieve financial success from their efforts. If they don’t have the passion to stick with it for even a few years to build the foundation of what could become a successful business then the community (speaking of gamers here) is losing nothing from those people moving on to their next Get Rich Quick scheme.

 

What Does Indie Game Developer Even Mean?

Heck these days IGD doesn’t even have a clear meaning. It used to be an IGD was the lone programmer (sometimes a a musician or artist but generally it was a programmer) creating a game. Often creating it just for themselves or for a very small community they were part of that liked certain game genres and wanted certain things to be added and perhaps certain things to be removed.

Sometimes, they want to try out new ideas just to see if they can do it. Sometimes it is their passion for a certain video game console or computer that drives them to push it to the limits to see what they can do or to simply continue to support these machines when the AAA industry has long forgot about them. I do not know what his true ambition was but I personally think even Minecraft was likely a labor of love and not something engineered to bring the developer financial success.

People didn’t expect such games to have great graphics, voice acting, move-like music or even exceptional programming. If you wanted those things you bought AAA games. Pretty simple. Want great graphics? Buy a AAA game. Want voice acting and move-like sound & music? Buy a AAA game. Want something different even if that means giving up the audio graphical embellishments? Buy a (no budget or extremely low budget) shareware or otherwise Hobbyist game. And that is exactly what a lot of people did.

 

The Two Types Of Modern Day Indie Game Developers

These days IGDs basically consist of two different groups: (1) people completely new to game development hoping to make a lot of money and (2) people (often experienced previously employed by AAA companies) trying to be “little AAA companies” and make a lot of money.

The former I already covered above. The mini AAA developers I will cover here. They try to make games that look, sound and even play like AAA games.

Many of these Indie Game Developers spend massive amounts of money marketing their games even hiring people (such as attractive women) to draw attention to their games. Does that sound like AAA to you or does it sound like Indie / Home Brew / Hobbyist Game Developers?

I see these people as riding the popularity train of the term “Indie” over the past few years. They say they are Indie and yet they often have resources available that no Indie in my mind would ever have. They are basically small AAA companies. A better term may be “AAA wanna-be” developers. They are far removed from the person sitting in his / her basement developing for hours on end (often after coming home from working all day) and able to pour only their time and skills into their games driven by their passion to create.

 

Not An Indie Game Developer… Nope

For the reasons covered above I no longer like this term Indie Game Developer. In fact, I’d like to distance myself from it as much as possible.

I am a Hobbyist Game Developer. I work on games purely for the enjoyment of doing so. I work on games because it is my passion.

This doesn’t mean I will never charge money for games that I create. It does mean I will keep making games and that they are a labor of love first & foremost.

So, the short answer is the reason I am not an Indie Game Developer is because I am a Hobbyist Game Developer.

The two terms have very different meanings from what I can see. And one resonates with who I am. The other seems to stand for everything I am not.

 

Some Examples Of Hobbyist Game Developers

InterAction Studios who started out with Chicken Invaders and continued releasing an entire series of games for its fans.

Edgar Vigdal (RIP) who some of you may remember for Deluxe Galaga back in the Amiga days who continued developing games as long as he was able to. Most recently moving to Unity for Warblade 2.

People such as Seth Robinson of Robinson Technologies created many great games including Dink Smallwood, an RPG which created a sort of cult following back in the day. Dink Smallwood HD is now available for mobile.

Jeff Vogel of SpiderWebSoftware who created 22 games over the past 22 years. A company and person most of the gaming world including all of these modern Indie Game Developers have probably never heard of. Yet he has been a real IGD for a long time now and has tons of fans of his many games.

There are dozens and perhaps hundreds of such developers out there. Developing excellent games that have a large number of loyal fans because they shared the passion for either playing games the AAA companies wouldn’t create or playing the same games in a way the AAA games didn’t support.

I recommend supporting Hobbyist Game Developers such as these because they represent the true spirit of what Indie Game Developers should be.

 


 

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