Why This Generation’s Best Developer is You, The Indie Dev

A look at what makes indies so special…

As the seventh generation of video games reaches its end, many have taken the opportunity to look back at what these past seven or so years have brought us. Games like the Assassin’s Creed series and Call of Duty have made their presence known this gen, while classics like Mario and Ratchet & Clank continue to steamroll their way through.

The beginning of a new generation also brings up the question as to who exactly was the best developer of the last gen. The seventh gen gave rise to some pretty great game creators, among them Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), Bioware (Mass Effect, Dragon Age), and Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us). Yes, some of these companies have existed well before the seventh gen even began, but the introduction of both HD development and motion controls allowed every one of these developers to step up their games (literally!) with new tools and assets for game creation.

But amidst all the AAA developers and cinematic CGI cutscenes, we almost forget about what made this gen truly special: you.

Yes, I’m pulling a “TIME’s Person of the Year is YOU!” today, but it’s something I earnestly feel like most people often forget about this gen. Indeed, it’s games like Mass Effect or Uncharted that win the bulk of those “Game of the Year” awards, but it’s the smaller titles – the LIMBO’s, the Braid’s, the World of Goo’s – that I’ll remember most fondly for years to come.

I have a friend who adores indie games. Before I got into PC gaming, he and I would always get into arguments about it. He would claim that his favorite genre is the indie genre. I would argue that the term “indie” is merely a label, and doesn’t really change anything about the game. He would go on to say that I was wrong, and that indie games had a specific “feel” to them. I would call him crazy. Actually, I still do, but less so now than before. That’s because I think I’m starting to understand what he means.

The thing I appreciate about indie devs is that they try to be different. Games like Thomas Was Alone or Super Meat Boy could never be created by modern AAA devs, who aim to wow us with mesmerizing showpieces. And yes, even Dear Esther, a game that left me both confused and puzzled, I applaud for at least attempting to try something new. Granted, things don’t always work out (I’m looking at you, Rochard), but in the end I can always appreciate an indie game for at least trying to find some good ideas.

But what about this “feel” that my friend keeps talking about? After playing through over a dozen indie games this past month (thanks to Humble Bundle and Steam Sale), I think I know what this indie “feel” is. These games are full of heart, full of passion. The guys who make these games truly care about their projects. I felt emotion when I played Superbrothers. I felt loss when I played To the Moon. I felt abandonment when I played Little Inferno. It’s not one guy trying to direct a massive team of robots to accomplish his vision. It’s a few people with a specific goal, a specific dream, and the motivation to accomplish said goal or dream.

It’s something I appreciate from these indie devs. They don’t try to impress us with cinematic sequences with flashy effects. They don’t try to throw in pointless DLC for the sole purpose of making money. They don’t try to annualize franchises to keep a brand alive. They simply want to make games, and they want you to enjoy them. It’s as simple as that

It used to be that indie devs had almost no way to be successful financially. Cave Story was released in 2001 as a free download, for Christ’s sake. But today, indie devs have more power than ever before. Kickstarter now allows devs to raise funds. Steam, PSN, XBLA, and Nintendo’s eShops all allow devs to self-publish. Online connectivity and digital distribution allow devs to easily spread the word about their products. It’s a whole different world now.

And so as I sit here, anticipating the release of A Hat in Time, salivating over Soul Saga, and enjoying the hell out of Cloudberry Kingdom’s beta, I can’t help but smile at myself. The future is bright for the indie dev.

Congratulations, indies. You are the best developer(s) of this generation.

So, MyIGN, tell me what you think. Agree or disagree? Are you as much in love with indies as I? Any specific memories with indies this gen you’d like to share? Comment below!


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