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Being Indie is Selling Yourself?
by David Maletz on 02/25/13 07:18:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


So, awhile ago I wrote a blog post on what I personally felt being indie was. You can read the full post here:, but the basic gist was that being indie meant making the game you personally wanted to make, meaning your decisions aren't dependent on investors, bosses, even the market. While this is an interesting definition, it seems that culture of "indie" is quickly devolving into something far different.

What is the difference between a multi-million dollar AAA company, and a multi-million dollar "indie" studio? A lot of people have this idea that a AAA company is a faceless evil, and an "indie" studio is a team of hardworking developers giving their all. Does this mean that the employees of a AAA company aren't hardworking, or that AAA games are soulless? I've played many amazing AAA games that certainly were not soulless, made by passionate developers simply published through a company. Yet there seems to be shame in AAA game dev, as proof, look at the recently trending #indieAAAconfessional. Why should people be ashamed enough that they have to confess to enjoying a AAA game? What is the big difference between being "indie" and being AAA - aren't we all just game developers?

The difference (despite what most people would claim) as far as I can see it is not the amount of money or evil, but the face. An "indie" studio is transparent, you know who works there, and you know their story. This is not true with AAA games. While you can find out who actually made the game, what you typically see is the brand and the company, not the individuals. And because you can't see the faces of most of the people making AAA games, you view it as faceless, soulless, perhaps even evil. Conversely, being "indie" is becoming more and more about selling yourself and your story, with the game itself becoming secondary. Games like "Unemployment Quest" are successful because of the story of the developer behind the game, not because the game itself is any good. Look at most indie games and kickstarter projects, there is so much material on the development and the team behind the game. Most videos for kickstarter projects have a lot more footage of the developers than the game itself, even if there is a prototype and a decent amount of gameplay already.

Now, I'm not saying that all small development teams are pushing their stories, nor am I saying that it's bad to have transparency and individuality. But, I don't think the development stories should be more important than the games themselves, and I definitely don't think that selling your personal story makes you any better than AAA game companies. So, if you're belittling AAA game dev and idolizing "indie" game dev, get off your high horse and start making good games.

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James Yee
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Well I'll focus on the Kickstarter part and what you're describing is what I call "The Girl Scout Test."

Basically as a Kickstarter creator you're coming up to every potential backer and asking "Do you want to buy a(n) [Insert Item here]?" Most of the time the point at which a game is in development there isn't enough of the product to show to really let it "sell itself." So you really ARE selling yourself. Hence, Girl Scouts. :)

See, Girl Scout Cookies are good, but they're not the greatest. They totally are overpriced but they're overpriced because they're a fundraiser. These little girls KNOW they're cute and use it to sell their evil cookies. Seriously I feel like an evil old dude telling these girls no I can't spare $5 for a box of Thin Mints. So tapping into that "it's hard to say no to a pretty face" or in Kickstarter's case a face at all is a great and key tactic.