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Chris Crawford's hope for the future: Indies 'will save video games'
Chris Crawford's hope for the future: Indies 'will save video games'
December 27, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

December 27, 2013 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Design

"The indie game developers are doing what the publishers should have been doing decades ago. They are the ones who will save video games."
- GDC founder and independent game developer Chris Crawford in a new profile by Simon Parkin.

Chris Crawford founded the Game Developers Conference in 1988 after having found tremendous success with his 1985 PC game Balance of Power. But in 1992, he left the game industry to work independently on tools to increase the storytelling potential of the medium -- after he became frustrated that he and the bulk of the industry were working toward different goals and pursuing different audiences.

These days he is known as an iconoclastic independent developer, far outside of the mainstream industry -- but that is precisely where he thinks the innovation he has hoped for for 20 years will arise.

Thanks to a new profile, you can understand his dreams and his story. Today, Simon Parkin speaks to Crawford about his work since he left the industry in 1992 -- both what he has achieved in the last 20 years, and what he still hopes to accomplish, and the changes he'd still like to see in games.

If that's not enough Crawford for you, a little-seen but engaging 2009 documentary about his work, filmed in conversation with Jason Rohrer (The Castle Doctrine) is available on YouTube.

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Michael Wenk
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I wonder how many gamers will appreciate that. I doubt I would. I find it similar to the whole "award winning" movie thing. Most em while I see why they are great, are not that entertaining. I would expect a lot of games that were made for arts sake to be very similar. So on one hand, while I hope for his sake he gets what he wants, on the other hand, I don't want his stuff to be the only thing. For example, I'd rather play my mario game which entertains me for the 30-40 mins I can spend than something thought provoking.

Ian Richard
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Even if he can't complete his goal before the beads run out, he was one of biggest inspirations for me getting into game development. I know there are many of us out there who've heard his call and are willing to hunt his dragon.

I don't fully agree with everything that he's said, but I do believe that our landscape of games is very limited. With every passing year, the mainstream industry becomes less and less varied. Everything MUST have deathmatches, everything MUST be a cover-shooter with RPG elements, everything MUST look pretty and have a B-Movie storyline about uber-men killing bad things. It's like the industry stopped trying to expand and just focuses on a smaller list of big-money possibilities.

I've seen more done for this industry by Indy's than any mainstream company. The explore new things and show us that games can be different. Indy developers restored my faith in games and I know that they will continue to do so.

Christian Philippe Guay
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We just have all those problems, because game developers aren't the ones running game companies. What big publishers and game companies do doesn't reflect the desires of their game developers and in the end, both game developers and gamers aren't happy. That's just not a sustainable business model.

Lennard Feddersen
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CPG, MJ - there is room for indies (I've been one for 10 years) but you are both ignoring market realities that definitely include people who are happy to plunk down $60 for something like Watch Dogs or The Last of Us that could only be made by big studios with huge budgets. Those big experiences are remarkably expensive and can only be created for the broadest markets regardless of what their developers would prefer to spend their time doing. That's not to say there isn't a place for all the rest of us to make unique experiences but you can't deny those big experiences and the folks who are rolling the dice on very big gambles to bring them to the world.

Judy Tyrer
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In my study of entrepreneurship, one of the biggest mantras is that entrepreneurs CREATE their market. The game industry is not creating new markets. It is relying on old ones. I think this is where Indies are going to have their biggest impact. They will create the new markets. Hopefully they will, like me, go after markets that don't currently exist. My games will never appeal to the current gamer market. That is intentional!