Indie Video Games:
''David and Goliath'' Gone Digital
Photo : Sketch by Bogdan Zaharia
A moment of awkwardness set in as my friend and I were drinking our beers. It had been a long day and our drinks felt endless. At one point he stands tall and says “I know, let’s make a video game, just the way we want it”. Next thing I knew, one more young gamer joined our group, eager to bring this project to reality. Our little club consisted of “IT wizards” and wannabe artists, not the most ideal think tank but it was all that we had. Roles were soon discussed and adopted. Because we were so few and our only experience and knowledge of the game industry came from the Internet , we stuck our hands in more than just one task. The more capable members of our group – Andrei Giurescu and Horatiu Stoianovici –, were to be working on scripting and scoring the game, while I was to be sketching the characters and writing the narrative. Eventually we decided that our game should be a gritty noir adventure made solely in Flash. By the time I was finishing the sketches for our characters, the magicians were soon leaving for wizard school aka college. After more than a month, we decided to put the game on hold mainly because we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Our computers were put to the test when trying to make the desired programming, the characters were coming out all wrong in digital form and basically we didn’t have the required resources to make this concept come true. Our little think tank soon disbanded even though for a moment the idea of being proud indie developers was pulsating strongly in our minds.
What are indie video games and why is it so hard to make one? Well, basically indie games are created by people or small teams without a video game publisher to back them up, financially speaking. They rely on innovation and don’t come in CD or DVD format, instead being distributed over the internet in order to spare expenses. Unfortunately for indie developers, they do not have the same popularity and budget as their company counterparts do, yet they are able to improve and even revolutionize the video game industry by tinkering and perfecting games without being constrained by deadlines. Where developers such as Ubisoft and Electronic Arts are flooding the markets with the same formula, games like Minecraft are gathering a strong following .This may well be called the digital version of “David and Goliath”. Of course there are cases of talented people who have left these successful companies, decided to go indie and attracted enough attention for his or their group in order to receive funding. Even though those examples are rare, they have the most attention and rightfully so. Talent that is free to prosper has healthier roots and room to grow.
In just a few short years the computer and video games industry has evolved significantly. Gone are the days when the industry was tightly controlled by a handful of publishers cherry picking the titles available to consumers, and gone are the days of complicated development and year-long productions. Today, game developers are faced with a series of unique new challenges. Like always, money comes to question, like a boat without sails you need money in order to push through. This is when sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo came along. Playfully reffered to by many as “the seed and spark”, these are a means of advertising different projects and receive funds from the people. They are international “crowd-funding” sites that are meant to bring to the attention of others projects that range from games and films to statues and museums. By paying whatever sum you like you can take part in the creation of said projects, thus becoming a backer. Sites like these have brought indie developing into the mainstream and secured them an important position in the industry. However it’s not as easy as it sounds. Many indie developers have failed to kick start their games merely because they didn’t know how to sell the idea or because maybe somebody had already approached that angle. One of the biggest pitfalls in indie developments is trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
The scope of indie development is not to sell just as many copies as Call of Duty but to bring something new to the table and maybe even leave a legacy. It is just like comparing Mcdonalds beef with farmer’s beef; even though it’s tasty you can feel it’s fake. Video games are meant to be fun and here there is no difference. The only characteristic that truly needs to pop out is for the consumer to feel that the creator poured love and attention in the game. The battle rages on between corporate and individual and maybe someday, by uniting they can achieve something more. Time will tell if my friends and I will ever finish our game. My characters are lingering in a folder while the script is crammed in a notepad but our ideas remain just as vivid.