A Shift In Independent Games

Indie. What the fuck does that mean? To me, it means something totally different today than it did as little as a year or two ago. And honestly, that’s fine with me.

Independent Games is a sub-culture of developers that create video games in order to express themselves and to create unique experiences. They do this on a very low budget, with very small teams, with no publisher or any financial support in sight. They do this proudly. That’s what I thought that indie games were when I was introduced to the space circa 2010.

Humble Beginnings

I was naive in terms of industry knowledge and was merely a person who played games casually and wanted to give purpose to my Computer Science studies at the University of Washington. I believe I was browsing for new games on IGN, Gamespot, and/or whatever AAA news/review source was popular at the time (I wouldn’t have known what AAA meant at the time). I searched for “Top Rated Games” because I wanted the best. Atop the list were games like Halo and other big-budget titles, but one that I hadn’t heard of stuck out: Super Meat Boy. I watched the video review and fell oddly in love with it. Not only with the game, but with the developers who seemed to be quite outspoken and very public about their story and their development (we also have similar senses of humor, which helped).

This lead to me stumbling upon other indie titles like Braid, Limbo, Castle Crashers, and many others. It was treasure trove of quality that I wasn’t getting from the diminishing walls of my local Game Stop. Accompanied with the love, came hardship. The developers were working difficult, intense shifts to get these games shipped. I could deal with that right? I want to fight to create something good, too. I feel like that is how and when independent games became a big thing. For lack of a better word, it was a movement.

As the industry grows, its visibility grows. People create new tools that allow even more people to give it a shot. Tutorials spring up all over the net. Artists, programmers, and designers rush to complete contract work in order to make ends meet as they tinker away on their pet project(s). Game jams spread fresh ideas on a monthly basis (often even more frequently). This was bound to change what we had.

Where I’m at and where I’m headed

I started writing this article two weeks ago. GDC was an eye-opening experience and I wanted to talk about my experiences with crowd funding, publishing, and private investing. However, within the past few weeks, my work status has changed dramatically, so I’d like to conclude with a bit of that instead. I am very open about my work via social media, so a lot of people get attached to *the idea* of what my projects could become upfront rather than what they currently are. That’s cool and it’s something that is required, because I often have to sell the idea of what my ideas could become to investors, BUT it also leads to quite a bit of disappointment and backlash when things fall through. I’d like to touch on that.

The projects that I tend to tweet about most do in fact stem from my original pitches/ideas. However, the vision has likely been skewed by whoever happens to be paying for it at that time. I often work with first-time investors and because of this, they don’t always know a ton about the industry. In the case of CATAM, I was told to consider the option of porting things to mobile. This was stressed as an importance, and my original pitch was something similar to a metroidvania that required roughly 8 keys/buttons to make the controls work as planned. I couldn’t come up with a way to get this working on mobile. It just wasn’t designed for the platform, so I decided to bail on it (for lack of a better term).

This was disappointing, but I realize that it’s more than ok. When I sign up for something like this, I still hope and expect to have creative freedom. I’d like to think that people are investing in myself and my projects, not in a quick buck. To me, that is still the disconnect between indies and pubs/investors. Either indies need to have more wiggle room in terms of creative freedom, or these other entities need to believe in the vision and absorb the risk. It’s a tough scenario and I’ll save the details for a later article.

ANYWAY, I am able to return to work on my personal projects. HackyZack being the main one. It is something that I threw together very quickly and I am glad that I will have time to expand upon it. Long story short, things are going to be ok and I appreciate the continuous support!

Thanks all,


A Shift In Independent Games

2 thoughts on “A Shift In Independent Games

  1. Eric says:

    Zack, keep heading towards what you defined as Indie because that is true Indie. We don’t want to see compromised product but something really express yourself!


  2. Michael Crichlow says:

    Zack, I love what you do, mate. I read this site often (though barely comment). You’re an inspiration and rocking it hard! Continue to strive for excellence and do what you do. Much respect! 🙂


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