Giving Slack to Indie Games


Over the last couple of years, the indie games scene has been given the spotlight in a major way. With shockingly good titles dropping on Steam, PSN and XBLA, more people have access to these off-the-beaten-path games than ever before. And with the recent influx of games like Journey, Fez, Trials Evolution, Super Meatboy and Botanicula, plus a slew of cheap downloadable mobile titles, it looks like this won’t be slowing down any time soon.

But are people giving these smaller titles too much slack, just because they’re indie? That’s the question that Game Front’s Jim Sterling poses in his new article, Are We too Generous to Indie Games. In it, he wonders if people give passes to indie games simply because they’re not made by Activision or EA — and as such, let indie games get away with a lot more grievances than most games.

This is definitely an interesting question, and one we sort of touched on in the as of yet unreleased podcast. There’s this idea going around that just because something is small and charming, it’s better — and if you don’t like an indie title, it’s because you love Call of Duty or Halo too much to appreciate a title like Fez’s nuances.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this viewpoint. While I recognize that some of the gaming community is indeed soaking up everything indie, I also think that some of these titles are totally worthy of the praise that they’re getting. I also think that yes, it is fair to cut some slack to a game that you paid only a few dollars for as opposed to one that requires a $60 entry fee. I absolutely don’t expect as much out of something that didn’t take much of an investment as I do out of something I have to spend an ample amount of money to play.

So what do you guys think? Are people too forgiving of the flaws in indie titles? Are they given too much slack? Sound off!

Source – Game Front

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “Giving Slack to Indie Games”

  1. I don’t think we have given them too much slack. you get what you pay for, and I have gotten a lot more out of small $5 indie games then I have out of a lot of big $60 games recently.

    I think he has it backwards, We have been giving big budget titles way too much slack. people are more and more willing to let big budget games get away with shifty AI, bad writing, and spotty level design, despite the fact that they have ten times the resources to fix these issues.

    I think the reason we like indie games so much is that they cannot fall back on superior graphics or technical wonders. Instead they have to focus on writing, clever level design, artistic integrity, and/or unique ideas/mechanics. these are things that the past generation had to focus on, though not always so much with the writing. It is one of the reasons we have such fond memories of the games of yesterday.

  2. I’m more forgiving and receptive to indie games because I want to see that business model succeed. I want to see more games with a lot of care and effort put into a game that costs $15. It might not have a huge budget or team, but often the bigger budget games aren’t necessarily better than indie games when it comes down to it. Numerous AAA games like Skyrim were clearly rushed and not very good quality (I’ve been revising my stance on Skyrim; the more you analyze it, the more you realize how flawed it is and how little it deserves GotY; so sayeth the schmuck who mysteriously poured 140 hours into it). Bigger budget does not immediately equal better quality. Indie games like Bastion, however, were finely-crafted experiences. Maybe they were short, or niche, or didn’t have all the fanciness of AAA titles, but at this point there’s still more poignancy in a simple yet refined story like Bastion, or the animated sprites of Katawa Shoujo, than the pretty explosions of Call of Duty.

  3. I want to say something, but I really feel like Gadfly and Cossack hit the nail right on the target. Guess, I’ll just copypasta a little bit. (lol not really)

    When you pay $5 for Bastion and get a game so much better than $60 Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, you’re happy. I mean, even Limbo made me do double takes and question what a real horror game is comprised of. I STILL have nightmares of shadowy spiders coming into my room as I sleep and stomping me with their strange metallic claws.

    What surprises me about Indie games is the way the are able to actually hit that “special element” we all look for in video games. You know, the thing that really makes you connect with it. The thing that makes you actually consider taking a few days of work off JUST to finish this game. The thing which isn’t sated until you beat the game AND EVEN AFTER YOU BEAT THE GAME, you pick it up months later just to feel that thing again.

    To be fair, there are some $60 games that manage to capture this feeling. Case in point, Skyrim, Dragon Age, and Arkham City. Beautiful games. Even with their flaws, people constantly go back to them. BUT I think that these are very special exceptions and if you really incorporate the ratio of “special games” with games that are just kinda there, I feel like it really pulls in the Indie games favor.

    That’s my piece anyway.

  4. But it doesn’t have to be either/or! On the GamerSushi Asks a little while ago, most people here (a small sample size, I know) said they had been blown away more by big-budget titles recently, yet the comments so far to this article seem to suggest otherwise. The author of the Game Front article says that a huge proportion of indie games receive better than average scores from reviewers, but this isn’t true. Most indie games never even see a reviewers score, because most of them are really nothing special. And the ones that do get noticed have either already made the rounds and are noticed because they are exceptional (Lone Survivor, Legend of Grimlock), or catch someone’s eye early in the process because they seem like something special (Bastion, Fez, the omnipresent Minecraft). The latter may suffer sometimes from the attention, and scores might fall because of too much expectation, but there was something there to draw people in beforehand, so I think it’s fair these games receive better than average scores. The indie games that get reviewed by major publications are exceptional, or at least potentially exceptional. By contrast, almost all big-budget titles get prior notice, even the mediocre ones, so it’s more likely to see middling scores in reviews of these games.

    However, it seems to me, and I could be wrong, that the quality of big-budget titles has actually been improving of late, and I like to think this is the impact of indie games getting more notice, along with economic problems worldwide. To me, it’s everybody wins, not either/or.

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