Why there are no indie video games.

The art of play.
May 26 2006 10:50 AM

Why There Are No Indie Video Games

And why that's bad for gamers.

(Continued from Page 1)

It seems doubtful, though, that someone like Costikyan can impact mainstream tastes.In the online gaming magazine Escapist, he wrote that gamers are partially to blame for the lack of an independent scene:

Indie rock fans may prefer somewhat muddy sound over some lushly orchestrated, producer-massaged score; indie film fans may prefer quirky, low-budget titles over big-budget special FX extravaganzas; but in gaming, we have no indie aesthetic, no group of people (of any size at least) who prize independent vision and creativity over production values.

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It's true that mainstream consumers have givenbig publishers little incentive to change. When the movie business decentralized in the mid-20th century, the door opened for avant-garde filmmakers free from studio control. Just as important, though, was the social change of the 1960s—moviegoers wanted something new. It happened again in the 1990s, when Quentin Tarantino and the Weinsteins re-invigorated American indie film and transformed the business.

Today, the video-game industry is at a similar crossroads. In one direction is an ever-deepening Madden playbook, and in the other is progress. The video game now holds much promise as a cultural mover. If the big studios stay in charge, it may return to its former status: the pastime of teenage boys and middle-aged nerds at gaming conventions.

Luke O’Brien is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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