April 5, 2006

Indie Indeed

by Andrew Stern · , 9:30 pm

As easily predicted Darwinia swept the GDC’s Independent Games Festival, and also predictably there is a bit of controversy over whether Darwinia deserved to compete, since it’s now distributed by Steam and has had some moderate commercial success. I think the answer is an obvious “yes” — Darwinia was created in true indie style, and just because the game is now moderately successful, by no means disqualifies it as indie.

Now, one could imagine an indie festival where all entrants must have a low budget, and/or cannot yet be distributed on a major label, and in fact get disqualified if they get signed before the competition finals, even if they were already accepted as a finalist. (Slamdance, the other high-profile indie game festival currently out there, is to date, intentionally or not, a “true indie” festival as such.) But in the case of Darwinia, it was low-budget sweat and tears, and even Steam is still pretty indie-ish — it’s a pretty young, small-to-medium-sized label, technically indie.

Kudos to Introversion! Sounds like the award ceremony was thrilling.

(This of course parallels the controversy over Savage in the 2004 IGF, which beat out an early version of Facade for the awards that we hoped we had a chance to win for — technical, audience, grand prize. As GTxA readers know Facade went on, competing with a completed version, to win Slamdance 2006. Which went almost totally unreported by the game media, I might add.)

Ah, awards. Love ‘em, hate ‘em.

4 Responses to “Indie Indeed”


  1. Unk Says:

    It seems pretty obvious that these attempts to denouce indie award winners are mostly generated out of puerile jealousy.

    On the other hand, I think our industry does lack definition which is something that needs to be addressed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie_gaming

    Defining the boundaries where indies begins and end seems to be a reoccurring theme of late. Some are asking questions about what happens to an indie that becomes really successful… are they still indies? The real root of the problem I think is our lack of self-definition as a movement. We have no center. It seems like before we can move on to define our boundaries we must first define our core.

    The word ‘indie’ itself seems to be a sort of vague catch-all for anything falling outside of studio control but it is also a sub-culture. I am of the increasing opinion that the industries and people revolving around the indie movement (primarily film, music, and games) all are working on the same problem… which is how to live a sustaining creative lifestyle outside of the control of corporate interests.

    Unlike those whining about how these award winners are not ‘real indies’, I am not so sure that being indie has anything to do with monetary success or failure as much as creative control and freedom over our own lifestyles. Regardless, until these sorts of questions are addressed we will be stuck having these superficial debates over who the ‘real’ indies are.

    -Unk

  2. andrew Says:

    A similar confusion about indie-ness in the film world about 10 years over the perceived commercialization of Sundance spawned the Slamdance festival, co-located with Sundance.

    More thoughts later when I get a chance…

  3. mark Says:

    And indeed a similar confusion over indie-ness has led to decades of debate over which record labels are “corporate” versus “indie”, which bands are “true to their indie roots” versus “sell-outs”, and so on. Is a punk band on Epitaph “indie” (the label is personally owned by another punk band’s singer, and isn’t part of the RIAA), or is the label big enough that it should qualify as “corporate”? If the latter, when did it make that transition? Was it when The Offspring and Rancid got popular in 1994? If so, does that mean popularity = not indie? Or do we really mean “D.I.Y.”, where there’s no label at all and you press and mail out CD-Rs yourself?

    Basically it’s a continuum over which we’re trying to make a binary distinction, so I don’t think it’s possible to settle the interminable aguments over where to draw the line…

  4. andrew Says:

    Here’s a good NYTimes article on the difficulty of distributing edgier indie films these days, even ones with known actors. The film in the article looks awesome, can’t wait to eventually see it.

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