I stumble to a mind-staggering retrospection reading this writing from Ron Gilbert. He is the famous creator and designer of ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’ and ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’. In his article, he challenge the people who labeled themselves ‘indie developer’. He started his writing by asking a fundamental question: “What makes a developer ‘indie’?”. In the process of defining ‘indie’, he raised more questions to challenge their legitimization. Since I have said myself in this blog that I am an indie (game) developer, I will do my best to answer all of his questions and give my opinion on many of his statements. I intend to do this to defend my legitimization as an ‘indie developer’ and use Mr. Gilbert questions to introspect my position as a game developer.
Regarding to snob indie developer, I haven’t seen or talk to one of them yet. But if I meet one of them, I certainly will not approve their attitude. An implied definition from the article states that an indie must be independent from publisher. I am independent from any publishers by planning to self-publish my game on Android market and Apple app store. I also do not take any money from any publishers, investors, friends or family. I do not use Kickstarter to fund my game. I do not consider my idea independent from mainstream thinking ( I have stated before that I open to any ideas. If I like it, I will make it whether it’s mainstream or not.) In this regard Mr. Gilbert, am I an ‘indie’?
Making some type of game definitely do not define you as an Indie. I have never said to any people that I will only make a certain type of game where it has to be bizarre, weird, etc. If I found this type of indie devs in the future, it’s their rights to think like that. Relating type of game and definition of an indie dev is out of the context. Any game developers are free to make any type of game they want. I have never ever look down to any other devs and mock them as ‘not indie’. Do you have a stereotype-ill Mr. Gilbert? Can you generalize a certain group to have the same attributes all the time?
No, Mr. Gilbert. “Indie” games do not have to be quirky and weird. I do not understand when you said “indie” games have to be about the “art”. Every game is a form of art in its own way whether people love or hate the game. We make game because we love to make game and we make it the way we want to.
Why do you bother if someone said to you that you are not an Indie? I respect you very much and I do not care whether you are an indie or not. You have made great games and you should be proud of it. Also, making a lot of money and gaining huge success is just another stage for you as a developer. It is a choice: Do you want to keep your full ‘independence’ or not? If you look back at your definition of independence, it means that they are not considered to be ‘indie’ anymore if they choose to take investors money, and so on. How about if they still state that they are ‘indie’? It’s their right and I myself did not give a damn about what they claim.
Also being ‘indie’ not always about being scrappy and clawing your way from nothing. Most fans do not care if you gain success or not. Why so negative Mr. Gilbert? They only care about the quality of your games. That is what matter the most! Success unfortunately did not equal to selling-out. The important thing is how you handle your success. Selling-out or success is out of the context of your ‘independent from what?’ question.
No, not all indie developer are poor and miserable. If all of them are, why don’t we call them third world developers? I assure you, it is okay to be a ‘rich indie’. The issue is not whether indie can hire top notch marketing and PR people or only use grass-root network. It is stretching too far (again) to your question of ‘indie’ independence. An indie can use any resources they want as long as they have the money. Do you expect us to produce and publish game with only free resources, pirated software and stolen equipment?
And why would you complicate things by saying an “indie” just mean you’re not owned by a (big) publisher. You also mention on the required threshold size of a ‘big’ publisher required to owned an ‘indie’. So, if I am owned by a small publisher according to certain ‘smallness’ threshold, I become ‘indie’? That is just ridiculous. You also said that it is easy to be a publisher these days, by stating that most indies who put their games up on Steam are “publishers”. Let’s make it simple Mr. Gilbert. Relating to game publishing, an ‘indie’ is an entity (a person, a group or a company) who self-published directly or use other third-party to help them sell their products as is.
I don’t think being an “indie” is defined by the type of idea you have as you mentioned in the case of “The Cave”. Instead of irritating by some devs (or fans) that look down on other devs because they are not “indie” or not “indie enough”, you should focus your energy on something else. If “indie” is just another marketing term, who is the big mastermind behind it and who will reap the profit from it?
I also do not claim to have the best answers on all of your questions but don’t nietzsche-ing us with your rhetorical questions to a point of nihilism of the term “indie”, Mr. Gilbert. You should socrates-ing the notion of “indie” by building a consensus “definition” of it. As my position as an indie developer, I haven’t gain any success or fame. Thus, many of your questions are not relevant to my current conditions.
But I can tell you these things: I use my own money to buy all the resources I need to make and publish my game. I am a one-man game developer. I plan to self-publish all of my games through third-party (Apple and Android). I have to pay them in order to sell my game. I am not poor nor rich. I never work in game industry before. I never looked down to any other game developers. Instead I try to learn as much as I can from them. I do not try to make my game look bizarre, quirky, about the ‘art’, etc. but I do try to make it unique and fun. I also did not intend to use the term ‘indie’ as a PR plan. I use it to identify myself. I am now struggling to finish my first game. Also, I don’t know whether I will stay as an indie or not when I gain huge success. I will think about that later. I will take the term ‘indie’ from myself when I feel it is not relevant anymore to identify myself. I just want to make game Mr. Gilbert, as good as it can get, by myself, independently. Am I an Indie (game) Developer Mr. Gilbert? You tell me.