I guess I was indie a year ago. I had just graduated, lived at home, was searching for real work, and holed up many many hours a week working on Spider's levels. Tiger Style brought me my first gig that actually saw light in the marketplace. Then I got a real job that paid my bills. It was nice. I liked coming home and being able to not think about making games. At least that's what I told myself.
So I originally wanted to write a post about all of the reasons I left the corporate world. And then I realized that none of that mattered. I am fine with the corporate world. It funds lots of incredible games. I would say that the corporate and indie worlds are closer than they probably want to recognize. We all want people to play our games. We are making entertainment. Whether you call them art or product, whether you are Cactus or John Carmack, you want to construct something for others. (Always exceptions, I know.)
Most people want to make money from their games. Whether just trying to survive, or to actually turn a serious profit, most of us make games and sell them. For those of you out there putting out your games for free: I respect you. Especially if you put out a truly great game for free. And not freemium. If you pour your heart and soul out there and just put it out for public consumption, I respect you. I think you are a little crazy, but still, respect. The rest of us like to eat.
I sometimes don't know if I am indie, honestly. I try to define indie as a mindset as much as a precise definition, but it is hard. At Digital Chocolate my mentor was as hardcore about game production and design as any indie developer I have ever met. But his role was not to make a series of perfect games. It was to try to deliver the best products within a certain timeline. And dammit, he cares about what he does. The reason I do not like the corporate world, however, is that people who do not care about the games are also involved.
I do not like the facebook gamespace because of those involved. I am not opposed to the games, but the purely entrepreneurial money-grubbing spirit of so much of what you see online. By that I mean the groups that enter social games with no goal but making money. (I should qualify that Digital Chocolate is not one of these purely entrepreneurial outfits.) I hate seeing every single clone of every other form of Mafia Wars and Farmtown.
I do not hate facebook or all of the games on it.
But I am making games to be creative. I have gone indie because I have original ideas. I believe that there are cool products that have not been made and I want to create them. Whether creating a 30 second app for the iPhone or an intricate social game for facebook or some splitscreen title for XBLA, it is the challenge of crafting a new experience that is fascinating. Right? If you are an artist, you want to learn from the greats so that you can paint your own unique landscapes and characters. If you are a composer, you don't want to make J.S. Bach's music, I hope. You want to make your own. A programmer who is doing the same thing as the programmer across the aisle is wasting text and time. And if you do not have those ideas yourself, you can undoubtedly find someone else to guide you in this tiny industry with a new take on what we do.
That is why I guess I had to do indie, because I had to do something new. The lead on Farmville spoke this year at the GDC Awards when his game won for Best New Social Game. He told indie developers everywhere that we should consider joining his team at Zynga, that's what an indie outfit can be. But my thought: You aren't original, and that is what I want from indie, I want creativity, and that is what I believe the real indie mindset is. Zynga makes products, but they dare not take a risk. I took a risk, I went indie. Maybe I will make money as an indie, but maybe not. I guess in the end, that risk is what it is all about for me. That willingness to go all-in on ideas I thought up. To create a product or art, I want to put my soul inside it. That is fun. That is why I am a game developer.