Halo. Call of Duty. Grand Theft Auto. Those names carry a lot of weight in our industry. Upon release they break records and sell to millions of frantic fans. Now let’s try this: Machinarium, VVVVVV, Small Worlds. Heard of them?
If not, it’s probably because they’re what make up a tiny fraction of our independent gaming industry. Where an entire development team can consist of just one man, or one woman. Where it’s not all about the prettiest graphics, or epic online multiplayer but rather fresh ideas, and innovative gameplay. Why is this important? Because these are the same people that could be giving you your next World of Goo, or Castle Crashers.
There are festivals, like the IGF (Independent Games Festival) that cater strictly to this industry. Think of it as the Sundance or Cannes of video games. Hundreds of titles are divided upon a panel of judges that grade them, and give the developers direct feedback on how to improve. At the time of submission the gameplay may consist of a single button, placeholder graphics, and some may not even be completed. But with the feedback and support they may go on to eventually become the next Fl0wer.
It’s a really interesting side of the video game industry that I encourage everyone to look into. It’s a place where taking risks is encouraged, rather than recycling a winning formula. Sometimes it really pays off. For example, a game that proudly sits amongst my favorite games of all time (Braid), came from such a place.
The best part is that today more than ever, we have the tools to help expose ourselves to these great games with services like XNA, X Box Live, PSN, and the App Store. I think it’s important we educate ourselves and expand our gaming pallet. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll end up sinking into a game consisting of a few dots.