Last week, Peter Molyneux , the creator of Fable, Godus and that one game about a mysterious cube, made some statements at the GDC that were met with a bit of ire, resistance, and fervor from the internet…as opinions on the internet tend to be. While I do think that Molyneux was a bit over dramatic in his wording, ultimately, i think it’s hard to argue that his sentiment is wrong. Here’s what he said:
“These things go in cycles,” he told CVG. “What I’d say is, enjoy this time, because it won’t last.
“Don’t think we’re going to be all indies for the next five years – these things go in cycles, just like in the music business. You have a time where punk is big, and then you have times like now where everything is manufactured.
“Enjoy this time, because inevitably it will only last a short period…”
“…Here’s the thing: walk through any hotel lobby at GDC and look at people’s name badges. This morning at breakfast I saw three angel investors talking to indies. They’re saying, ‘take my money! I want to invest in your company!’
“But what those indie companies don’t realise is that they’ll then have to have board meetings, and in those meetings they’ll be told, ‘no, you shouldn’t do that – look at this game that’s making money’.”
If we’re going to talk about this issue, we need to define a couple of things right off the bat; What makes an ‘indie game’ or ‘indie developer’ indie, and whether or not ‘indie’ can be thought of as a genre. In it’s most basic definition, an independent game is one published and developed by the same company. Pretty simple. We’ll even include those companies that have founded their own publishing companies in addition to their development side. It’s a pretty clear definition, and even if there is some gray space (which there always is). But, Indie, with a capital “I” is something more than that.
Indie isn’t really a genre of game, it’s an attribute. You can have an Indie Adventure, or an Indie Horror game. But the fact that there exists an “Indie Game” category on Steam, a crowd-funding site named Indiegogo, and the fact that I’m writing this article on a site solely dedicated to Indie Games and Devs proves the there is, undeniably, an Indie Culture. Ultimately, culture is people, and people are fickle as hell.
Molyneux made one mistake in his statement, in my opinion, and that’s mixing these two things: The Definition of Indie and the Culture of Indie. Indie Games, simply as independent games that publish and develop on there own will exist for a very, very long time, if not forever. Independent development breeds innovation, and that always has a market. Crowd funding and Digital Distribution have made indie games more easily accessible to the masses, more than I think they’ve ever been in history. As long as Crowd Funding and Digital Distribution exist, Indie Games will be here.
However, culture is confusing, doesn’t always make sense, and changes in ways that boggle the mind. I think it is very fair to propose that Indie culture may wax and wane in popularity as years goes. As Molyneux said, and anyone who grew up on 80’s TV and Movie can tell you, we are living in 80’s revival land:
“It’s very much like the 80s,” he said. “Back then anybody could create a game that could be hugely successful. There were no formulas or anything cast in stone.
“A few years ago it was all about fear; huge budgets and ‘my franchise is bigger than your franchise’. It was all about ‘who’s going to create the new Call of Duty?’
“Now it’s all about invention, creativity and not having any fear.”
It’s almost impossible to predict what culture is going to dump on our Twitter feeds next, but Molyneux is right: life is cyclical. things come and go, wax and wane, and become popular before falling from grace. Indie culture isn’t immune from this, even if recent advancements have made it more resistant. In five years, the ‘indie scene’, if that is what we want to call it, may look entirely different. We don’t know. On top of that, the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook added a lot of credence to Molyneux’s statement: Indies will become the very boardroom-bound, faceless, mega-corps they always sail against.
I think Molyneux hit upon an important point: Indie gaming and Indie Development IS a culture all to it’s own. I’ve got games to play, so the 3 volume set clearly describing this culture is going to have to wait, but what is important to realize is that cultures change. Indie Gaming Culture is big right now, but that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily stay big or change drastically, nor does that mean that it won’t get even bigger in the future. Independent development is here to stay, but it isn’t static. In fact, we shouldn’t once wish for it to be static and unchanging: Change is what made, and will continue to make, Indie’s great.
This is an opinion piece. It only represents the views of its writer. Get over it. People have differing opinions. Make yours known in the comments!