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Need Gaming Innovation? Look To Indie Games

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The era of Triple-A studio dominance is over. The kings, as it were, are dead. Long live the king. In an era when anyone has the capacity to start a game studio as long as they’ve got a set of programming skills and a Steam account, Triple A studios are increasingly finding competition from studios they would have crushed like they were a band of particularly weak enemies that wandered into a Conan the Barbarian convention. Enemies driven before you, lamentations of their women, etc. This isn’t the 90s, or even the 2000s though.

With the rise of digital distribution and the continued corruption of the standard release model with day one DLC and paid tie-ins, consumers are growing quickly frustrated with the money grab in the bastions of gaming production. That frustration and desire for innovation has caused people to flock to crowdfunding and crowd-approval of new games. It’s a sort of democratization that the industry has certainly benefited from. Want a game made? Make it yourself, or get enough traction behind the idea to get the support to make it. No publishing deal with the electronic devil is necessary (which has probably lead to a solid stream of tears down at the EA corporate offices).

No more clearly was this illustrated for me than last weekend at MAGfest. The last con I had attended was in 2010 up in Philly, and the Indie presence there was, in all honesty, not good. Even though it was a smaller con, it was still big enough to use about half of the convention center up there, which is pretty sizable. Still, the showing five¬†years ago, from my con experiences back then, was not great for indie games. In the five years since, the world has totally been flipped. When a crowd-funded game can achieve a Triple-A budget without the added bullshit that comes along with big publishers, it’s absolutely a game changer in an industry that was happy to stick to series where the damn things have to be rebranded just so we’re not playing Call of Duty 10 or Assassin’s Creed We Ran Out Of Numbers On The Ezio Games.

At MAGfest, I played nothing short of five games I seriously wanted to see made and get my hands on. From Aerobat (which was an awesome game that I am actually incapable of describing, just look it up), to Immune Defense, subversive platformer Default Dan, awesome Joust-inspired sports title Sportsball and cute rogue-like Vagante- the entire field was packed with great games. The big studio presence was minimal, but this isn’t a PAX East or anything like that. Still, the progress indie developers have made in being competitive over the last few years has been amazing. For me, the indie section used to be the one place I avoided at cons, and now it’s one of the first places I go. The amount of concentrated talent and passion is just awe-inspiring, which is a nice change in an industry that so often loses focus of why people like games in the first place: fun mechanics and unique content.

The innovation coming out of indie studios is immensely cool. With bigger developers, tired of being pushed around by huge corporate publishers also jumping in on the action, it’s a very cool time to be gaming. Combine this with the freedom for studios to push the limits without the retail censorship you often see with brick-and-mortar sales and we’re quickly getting to a place where gaming can be both an entertaining and mature medium. Like independent film, independent games have the ability to do what the big studios can’t or won’t. The ability for studios to get funding to put together projects previously seen as commercial non-starters in today’s gaming climate means things like 3rd person RPGs are back with new coats of paint and a bunch of bells and whistles. If you’re looking for true gaming innovation, indie is the way to go. Now if you excuse me, I have a Pillars of Eternity demo to go salivate over.

About Whiskey Ginger

Whiskey Ginger is a scientist by day and comedy writer by night. Other than his passions for the nerdier things in life, he also writes for comedy sites dedicated to fraternity and postgrad humor. His parents just wish he'd write less dick jokes.

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