Indie games (or independent video games) are those usually created without the financial support of a publisher. These are normally made by smaller teams, obscure companies, or even one person.

Indie games are a large part of the video gaming community whether we acknowledge them or not. For the past couple decades, the sudden upward growth of the independent gaming niche has inspired a cult following for small-time developers.

Especially in the last few years, these kinds of games made themselves out to be larger sleeper hits than intended. Here we will analyze and look at the brief history of indie games as well as why or how they’ve become so successful as of late.

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Humble beginnings

The first batch of independent games arguably were released on the PC, where the genre is most known. Before the term became familiar, many games were coded single-handedly by individuals without any sort of backing. This is due to the notion that the computer is more user-friendly and the “new thing” back in that time.

Developers used their own software or cheaper gaming engines to make such early games. In addition, the popularity of Shareware titles also helped the cause, in which players can try demos of new independent projects, according to one source. By the mid-to-late 1990’s, the personal computer became a notable option for video gaming.

Because of the costs and resources that it takes to make a game, the independent gaming scene used to be rather small. However, with the rise of 3D software and graphics engines such as Unity, this soon faced a rapid transition.

In the early 2000’s, the expansion of the internet was a driving force for this change. Shortly after, people began creating mods and spin-offs of other titles.

Freeware & Shareware logos; Source: allgeeknews.com

The flash generation

A few years after the turn of the millennium, creators started to use Adobe Flash in order to spawn a new generation of gaming. These little projects, referred to as flash games, were popular in the middle 2000’s.

Their popularity came about due to their simple, yet effective and fun nature. Such games are still made to this day and are usually playable on websites like NewgroundsAddicting Games. Things such as GameMaker Studios and other engines were then at an all-time low price.

In general, these “flash” games are short, yet goofy and clever in their design. Some of them play out like short animated films or mysteries. Meanwhile, others may be viewed as brief RPGs, choose-your-own stories, action games, mini-games, etc.

What makes this genre of gaming so cool is the notion that there’s really no limit on what you can do with them. These games are rather simple to program and create, with the software being user-friendly.

However, the fame of flash games has slowly declined over the past years mainly due to a shift towards the FPS and Steam crowd.

NEWGROUNDS.com Logo; Source: IGN.com

The 2010’s and Steam

With the introduction of Steam and other digital platforms, indie games can now be available to a wider audience, according to Forbes. The Steam digital medium, founded by Gabe Newell and Valve Corp., is awesome due to a large number of software it has for sale.

The games available are both AAA and independent and are usually at a low cost. In addition, the platform normally holds discounts and sales on many of its products.

Most notably, Steam is known for distribution of hit titles such as Half-Life, Left 4 Dead & Counter-Strike. Aside from this, the Steam software also received recognition for housing several independent video game titles from other developers.

Don’t Starve gameplay screenshot; Source: Google Play

Overall, the inclusion of Steam in this discussion shows the strength of one software or platform in an entire industry. The popularity and rise of Steam are mostly because of its widespread accessibility and devotion to showcasing games.

While its fame lies in the realm of the PC titles that were made in the past, its strength in numbers is also helped by the constant purchase of independent titles from its site. Some popular indie games, which are cheap or even free-to-play, include The Talos Principle, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Don’t Starve.

Today, the rise of indie games continues. With more and more such titles releasing, this dedicated, yet obscured portion of the industry surely won’t die anytime soon.

Steam emblem; Source: Steam Store

Why indie games work and how they are so great

In all, the independent game industry is a great and worthy component of the scene. They are enjoyable for many reasons and sometimes can even be better than AAA titles.

Some indie titles, such as Cuphead, Undertale, Binding of Isaac, Slender, Amnesia, and others of the like have proven this before. These games are pretty innovative and different in their own ways for several reasons.

Cuphead gained a cult following because of its awesome animation and clever gameplay. The title is a callback to older cartoons and films, with an emphasis on a run-and-gun mechanic involving a series of boss fights.

Binding of Isaac is innovative due to the way that it refines the old-school top-down gaming formula. The game basically has a Legend of Zelda type system with the difficulty of Dark Souls.

In addition, Binding of Isaac features themes and imagery that are unusual for the genre.

Slender is cool for the scare factor and its link to the CreepyPasta realm.

Finally, the best independent games are the ones with the most innovation or best overall gameplay. Sometimes, these games can actually surpass the quality of AAA titles because of factors that drive their success.

One factor includes the presence of a smaller team, which makes room for greater agreement and intimacy in game making. The other is the independent aspect, in which big publishers are not present, therefore generally have no say in regards to creative decisions. Developers strive to create the games they or their fans want.

I have faith that these kinds of games will continue to play a role in our world. The best way that we can aid their existence is to support them in any way possible.

 

Video showcasing the best-looking indie game titles of E3 2017; Courtesy of Get Indie Gaming on YouTube

 

Sources: PC Gamer, Forbes

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