You may have heard the name ‘Indie Game’ without having any idea what it actually means. The term “indie game” best refers to a video game that is made independently. Basically a game made by an individual or a small group of people, without the backing of a large publisher.
Perhaps you’re more familiar with the term “indie film.” These are generally low budget films made by an independent film maker without a major studio behind them. There are lots of film festivals showcasing and celebrating indie films.
Indie games are often said to embody indie spirit. This idea is that the game developers have total control and freedom over the style and content of their games, as opposed to one made by a committee. They can also have quite a retro, low grade feel to them without the same technological advantages and financial support that would be received by working with a major publishing house.
If you are interested in learning more about the history and culture of independent video games, Jesper Juul’s book Handmade Pixels: Independent Video Games and the Quest for Authenticity provides an indepth look at the rise of this type of gaming product. Juul also references the marked aesthetic difference between independent and mainstream games and the strategies developers use to culturally signify their games as independent.
Brief history of Indie Games
The term itself wasn’t regularly in use until the early 2000’s, but independent games were being made long before this. BASIC computer programming allowed people to start coding their own games at home. And computers such as ZX Spectrum were popular with so called ‘bedroom coders’ during the 1980’s.
In the 1990’s the advent of shareware allowed independent programmers to showcase their work even just as demo versions. The next step in the 2000’s was the ease of distribution access via the internet. Also software could be purchased to actually help developers build games, opening up the genre to many more amateur programmers.
From 2005 onwards, some major publishers stepped away from producing smaller games titles, enabling the indie developers to run free with their ideas and increasing their market exposure.
Indie Game Funding
Crowdfunding, particularly from sites such as Kickstarter enabled indie game titles to be made. Even those that had previously been rejected by video game publishers now had a chance. This system allows for donors to earn rewards or equity in the project. Some grants are also now available to help indie developers realise their projects such as the Indie Fund.