In the beginning, computers were functional but not intuitive. With invention came innovation and today the world is walking around with personal computers in our pockets.
Technology’s ease of use has lowered the barrier of entry for game developers; it has democratized video game development and given the power to the people.
The Rise of Independent Voices
Software like Game Maker Studio, Unity, and Stencyl have opened the gateways for amateur hobbyists and small indie studios to tell a story and create an experience that, just fifteen years ago, would’ve been restricted to mass-market video game titans.
We are at a time when indie games are at their most prosperous and the call to action is here to begin filling the void of diverse, untold stories. In the 90s we got games with male protagonists or female protagonists with busty tops and wide bottoms. Granted the men were in peak physical form as well.
Today, we still carry this tradition onto a new generation, but also sprinkle in protagonists like Mae, a twenty-year-old cat college dropout, from Night in the Woods and Madeline trying to scale the titular mountain in Celeste.
The innovations in game development have opened the door for these types of representations, which can only be helpful in expanding the longevity of video games and growing the possible market.
It’s not just representation of characters, either. Indie games have become a breeding ground of new gameplay ideas from fresh perspectives.
The shooter is a genre that is as old (if not older) as the people playing them. It’s gotten faster, it’s added locked-on aiming, it’s added a battle-royale mode, but it hasn’t truly evolved in any monumental way since the second Halo brought playing online to the mainstream.
That changed or is in the process of changing, with the help of indie titles leading the charge.
Superhot, a game that blasted onto the scene in 2017, introduced the idea of syncing your own movement with the game’s speed. They added a new perspective to the genre and created new opportunities to interact with FPSs.
Call of Duty slaps a fresh coat of paint onto their engine each year, but Superhot took the shooter genre and created a new way to play and think about killing your enemies.
An Influx Of Indie Game Developers
Indies have redefined characters and gameplay, but the biggest space that has developed from an influx of indie game developers is story. Games like the aforementioned Night in the Woods, Firewatch, and Undertale have tackled political issues and stories that would never dare be addressed in a AAA title.
The ease of technology afforded by innovation has opened the market for indie video game developers to contribute their voices to the gaming scene. They have brought with them new characters, gameplay, and stories that can now appeal to a vast number of niche markets that were once thought to be unattainable from the AAA perspective.
Power has been given to quieter voices in the past few years and with Steam and Switch leaning hard into indie games, the roar doesn’t look to be silenced anytime soon.
2 thoughts on “Weekend Thoughts: The Rise of Independent Voices”
It’s cool that talented indies can now reach a big audience. Sadly a lot of quality stuff gets drowned out by rubbish.
I couldn’t agree more! We have so many more fascinating stories that pushed limits AAA titles wouldn’t dare to push, and I find it’s often those stories such as Night in the Woods and Undertale that captivate people in a way so many other stories cannot. This innovation is what keeps the video game industry growing, and with any luck the community that follows indie development won’t allow the “quality stuff” to get drowned out as it so often does.
Video games are such a fascinating and effective method of storytelling, with the interactive aspect drawing in readers far more than books or movies can, and as such it is all we can do to hope that they continue to flourish and grow.