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New Documentary Charts the Rise of the Indies

An upcoming Kickstarter-funded documentary aims to take a personal view of how indies have disrupted the traditional games industry.

By Pete Davison. Published 9 months ago

The term "indie" is one that remains ill-defined. Most people know what they're talking about when they say "indie games," but ask them to actually define it and you'll get a lot of different answers.

There's one unifying factor that's hard to deny, though: the rise of independent developers has been enormously disruptive -- in a good way -- to the games industry's traditional way of thinking. Indie games have taught us that you don't have to pay $60 for a satisfying experience; indie games have taught us that you don't always have to have the latest and greatest graphics to produce an incredibly compelling experience; indie games have taught us that video games, as a medium, are just as capable of having "auteurs" -- strong, creative individuals who exert a clear and recognizable influence over their work -- as anything else.

An upcoming Kickstarter-funded documentary known as GAMELOADING: Rise of the Indies aims to chart the development of the indie movement as a whole: how it rose up and challenged the mainstream studios, and helped change our perception of what games can be.

The team behind the project is Australian, and has started the journey towards the eventual release of the film with an exploration of the development teams in its home country. It's now ready to travel out to the USA to interview developers at PAX Prime and IndieCade, then on to Europe to do interviews in Stockholm, Belgium, France, Italy and Romania. After that, the filmmakers will move on to Japan and explore the burgeoning Eastern indie development scene before heading back to Australia to check in with the teams they've been following there.

So far, the team has interviewed a broad range of people from across the industry, ranging from mainstream(ish) developer Obsidian's Chris Avellone to media outlet Polygon's editor-in-chief Chris Grant via mobile developer Halfbrick Studios' designer Luke Muskat. Future interviews planned include Jens Bergensten from Mojang's Minecraft team; Incredipede developers Colin and Sarah Northway; Spaceteam developer Henry Smith; Q-Games' James Mielke, who is also the director of Japanese indie scene event BitSummit, and numerous others.

The Kickstarter project is seeking $50,000 to help cover costs of production and travel. At the time of writing, it's raised over $9,000 (no Dragon Ball jokes, please) with 33 days left to go in the funding period. Rewards on offer for backers range from HD downloads of the film when it's finished to bundles of indie games, posters, T-shirts and the opportunity to be in the film itself.

Find out more about the project and watch its progress over on Kickstarter.

The best community comments so far 3 comments

  • AxiomVerge 9 months ago

    I'm super excited about this. I hope to hook up with them at IndieCade this October.

  • JimmyDanger 9 months ago

    Not to sound like that guy, but I recall Indies(though we just called them bedroom coders then) being a driving force in the zx/c64 days, through the early cga/ega days of PC gaming, from Captain Comic through to Commander Keen - and even the original ID games to a certain extent. Its never really gone away, and been a driving force ever since you could buy someone's tape game from an ad in Zzap, or send money to the Captain Comic creator. The distribution is finally in place (Steam, other digital delivery avenues) for them to garner more exposure - but "the rise of Indies" happened 30 years ago. They may be more popular than before, or a select few titles are, and the entire market is near ten times the size it was in 1987 - but I'd garner a higher proportion of c64/zx/pc releases in the 80s were indie than they are now. Although I guess Minecraft has sold more copies than most games released in the last few years - like the Wolfenstein 3d of its time - and just like in the 80s/early 90s - a ton of innovation from certain (though not all) Indies is driving the market in some new directions - the "birth" and "rise" of Indies actually happened decades ago.

    Next up "The rise of rock" - charting how the White Stripes and The Strokes brought rock n roll music to the forefront of the music scene. Maybe a good parallel. Sure rock was subverted for a few years, and came back (again) to birth the neo hipster rock movement - but it's disingenuous to pretend there weren't plenty of previous eras where Rock sprang forth from the bedrooms and garages and knocked bigger production, corporate fodder onto its bum.

    I've been playing indie games as long as I've been gaming - and continue to support many Indies - but I just groan when another indie comes out again ( usually with some graphics or gameplay inspired by something I played 25 years ago - though usually tweaked and improved greatly) and everyone hails it as a breakthrough, like the first person to play a guitar with distortion while wearing a dirty pair of jeans just emerged with this new garage invention called Rock n Roll.

    TL;DR - I love Indies, they've always been a huge part of gaming, but find it a bit silly people act like they started with Minecraft , or Braid or Flow. They're the foundation stones the modern industry was built on 30 years ago - and never went away.

  • Andy1975 9 months ago

    @JimmyDanger The difference now is that certain indie games can make real money, to the point that Sony is even using indies to promote PS4. Compare it to movies - independently made films date back many decades, but it wasn't until around Sex, Lies, and Videotape that mainstream audiences really embraced indie films.

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