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Gaming

Celebrating the rise of indie gaming

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Indie games have pretty much dominated the video game scene over the last few years.
A
ccessible online platforms such as Roblox, Steam and Twitch mean it’s never been easier to create, play and stream indie games, and as champions of authenticity and extraordinary experiences at Ballantines, we’re thrilled. And we’re not the only ones.

Indie games can be so successful that they become household names. Gaming novices may be shocked to know that colossal games such as Minecraft actually started life as an indie game, and the super popular Among Us also falls into the indie game category.  Seeing as the popularity of the genre doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, we’re delving deeper into the rise of this gaming phenomenon.

What exactly is an indie game?

In a nutshell, indie games, or independent video games, are games developed by individuals or small teams, as opposed to the big guns: the major games publishers, known as AAA in the video game industry.

Budget is the main difference between indie games and triple-A games. Everything from marketing capabilities to the artwork and technology and behind the game creation itself will be on a smaller scale for independent developers.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this lack of budget is nothing but a hindrance. 

 

Without the pressure of getting a healthy return for the publisher, independent game developers are free to push the boundaries of what we expect from video games, and indulge their unique imaginations to produce some seriously authentic and addictive games. Ultimately, they have full creative control

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How do game developers create games in the first place?

They use what’s known as a game engine.

Game engines are what they say on the tin – they’re software frameworks especially designed for video game developers. The length and breadth of how this software works and every little element involved to create a successful video game is nothing short of mindblowing.

Some game engines require developers to be super skilled at coding, whereas others are more user friendly. Either way, serious skill, creativity and a great deal of dedication is needed to make a gripping video game.

Why have indie games grown in popularity over recent years?

It’s a combination of factors. For one, game engines have become far more accessible. In the past, game developers needed to be master coders, but modern game creation systems such as Roblox and GameMaker Studio allow indie video developers to bring their wildest ideas to life without any coding experience.

Then there’s the elephant in the room: Covid-19. While we don’t like dwelling on the pandemic and its lockdowns too much, we can’t talk about the rise of indie games without mentioning Covid-19’s impact.

Research by Video Game Insights found that 10.5% more games were released on online video game platform, Steam, in 2020 compared to in 2019. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together – more time spent at home gave indie game developers more opportunity to crack on with their creations, and likewise, it gave indie gamers extra time to play.

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The impact of indie game streaming

And more time spent playing indie games went hand in hand with the popularity of video game streaming on sites such as Twitch. Streaming really took off during the pandemic, adding a much needed social element to indie gaming.

The full spectrum of video games are streamed on Twitch, from AAA games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, to indie games such as Fall Guys and Rust. Streaming can really help to give indie games the exposure they deserve, and this is especially powerful seeing as indie game developers don’t have the massive marketing budgets of triple-A publishers.

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What’s so good about indie games anyway?

The very nature of independent game development opens up the space for more diverse and innovative games.

With no overheads and no huge budget to guarantee a return on, independent game makers are free to push boundaries and stay true to their original ideas and gaming preferences. This often leads to true gaming magic, because there’s nothing but pure passion behind an indie game’s creation. It’s the same as indie films or indie music – there is a strong alternative element to indie games that can strike a chord of authenticity within gamers.

Before the rise of indie games, it often felt like the main focus of contemporary video games was more realistic imagery. But indie games have proven that the graphics aren’t the only thing that a successful game depends on. The clue is in the name, video games are games, not films. Indie games such as Stardew Valley and Among Us remind gamers of the importance of gameplay and storytelling in how fun and addictive a game is for players.

 

Indie game creation can also give underrepresented voices and perspectives space within the industry, which we back 100%.

The authentic joy in indie gaming

Many indie games take us right back to the humble beginnings of video games and remind us what actually makes a game enjoyable. There’s a unique nostalgia to indie games that’s a breath of fresh air in the overwhelming advanced world we are living in. Indie games stay true to why video games were created in the first place, and we think that’s pretty cool.

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