Last month, Boston Post Mortem (our local IGDA chapter, which I help run) did a second helping of the PAX East panel, Indies Will Shoot You in the Knees - Why We Don't Play Fair.
If you want to watch it, you can find the full video of it here, courtesy of my good friend Darren Torpey.
"What is Indie" = Useless
During it, I got onto a good rant about "who is indie". Eitan loves to get a good argument going with these panels - which is great, no one wants a snooze fest. So this time, he did a lightning round - all three panelists had to answer "yes", "no", or "maybe" to the question "Is such-and-such a studio indie?"
My stance, then and now, is that the question of "Who is Indie?" is utterly useless. And as a game developer, "useless" is one of the dirtiest words I can think of.
We cannot afford spending time on useless things. We have way too much to do, to create, to explore. We usually have way too little time and money. We must be ruthlessly utilitarian in pursuit of what we think is really important. Unproductive navel gazing and deciding who is not in our special club is useless.
Exactly like in film and music, there is an indie brand now - it's a certain kind of game, a certain style of art, a certain set of people. That's fine. But do not make the mistake of assuming that this is what you need to be as a game developer and artist. That brand will see its rise and fall, just like every other creative movement in the history of culture.
If anything isn't indie, it's the idea that your creative output should be forced to fit into someone else's preconceived notions for it.
Indie is an Aspiration
To me, indie is an aspiration. It is a desire. Indie is wanting to make your mark, creatively, to learn and grow and share something new and special with people. Indie doesn't meant making a certain kind of game, fitting within a certain budget, or not sitting in a certain office.
I think there is a high correlation for successful people and companies not taking creative risks. This makes perfect sense to me - once you have something to lose, it's harder to risk throwing it all away. But spending time trying to figure out if someone "is indie" makes no sense. How does that help anyone make art?
My Soapbox Manifesto
What does indie mean in video games?
Indie is the aspiration to create something new, interesting, or different. Something you as an artist find worthwhile.
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, if you make any money on it, or anything else.
So go make a game. Make something new, even if only to you. Learn something. Then challenge yourself to go make another.