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Indie or Independent? What’s the Difference?

IndieGAMES

Here at the DIY HQ, we bill ourselves as covering three different types of video game news: indie games, independent games, and student games. Despite that, however, we are constantly getting asked why we don’t cover such and such at the same time as others complain that we are covering games that aren’t necessarily “indie.” Because of that I’ve decided to write up a little piece on just what’s what here at DIYgamer.

As I said above, we cover indie games, independent games, and student games. While the latter of the three may seem kind of obvious, the former two options get a little more muddled in definition. I mean, just by looking at it it would seem that indie and independent are the same things right? While that may be true in some places, it isn’t necessarily so here.

Here’s how we break things down:

Indie

We cover lots and lots of indie games here. In fact, of the three categories we write about, we probably cover indie games about twice as much as the other two combined.

Indie games are almost exactly what you think of when you think “indie.” These are small time games that have no marketing arm, and generally very little funding. These games often get released for free or for very little money. In every definition of the word, these games truly live up to the oft-coveted “indie” stigma where most of the time anywhere from one and four people are developing the game.

Honestly, these are our favorite games to write about here at DIY. While it may not be as flashy as writing about the next Call of Duty, complete with publisher/developer mail swag, events, etc., the idea that we’re helping spread the word about a game nobody else has ever heard of it a true delight and, in all honesty, helping these guys out are why I created this blog in the first place.

Here are some examples of true indie games: BOH, Dysnomia, VVVVVV, Zombie Estate

Independent

On the other side of the small-time video game world we have independent games. While we don’t cover these as much, we most certainly make every effort to get in as much independent gaming news as well.

While you may be thinking the two are one in the same, to us they’re different. But that’s OK. An independent game, to us, is a game that is a larger company, consisting of 10+ staff members or so (we don’t work this stuff down to a science), that maintains it’s projects are 100% funded by themselves even if they are published by a larger company.

These are typically games and game companies that don’t get much media attention because they aren’t really large games, but at the same time they large enough so that some indie-only places don’t report on them either. It’s kind of a cruel middle zone where your both too large and too small at the same time. Because of that we make every attempt to give them some attention as well.

Of course there is a limit here as well. Companies like Valve may be independent, but we absolutely wouldn’t be reporting about them here. It’s usually something we play by ear, so to say.

Here are some examples of independent games: Global Agenda, Torchlight, Shattered Horizon, Hamster Ball

In the past, some of the stuff we’ve covered we’ve gotten criticized for. I know, it’s odd, but we have actually gotten criticized for covering content that others didn’t think we should be covering. Crazy right? I mean, clearly there are enough indie games to solely focus on that, right? Absolutely. But that’s not the reason why we’ve deviated from only covering those games unlike a few other blogs out there.

The simple fact of the matter is that it’s pretty damn hard to figure out just what is indie and what is independent these days. Take Machinarium, as an example. This is clearly an indie game, right? Most would argue so, but the developer Amanita Design may not actually be all that indie as they’ve done project work for BBC, Nike, and bands such as The Polyphonic Spree in the past. Is that the type of studio that can really claim to be indie? Honestly, I don’t know.

I’m not knocking Amanita here. I love those guys and Machinarium was my pick for indie game of the year for 2009. Despite that, however, they’re one of those companies where things get a little foggy in the “is it, or isn’t it” indie game debate.

Because of these issues, we’ve always stood by our original goal to cover indie, independent, and student games. It’s simply too much of a chore to sit down and meticulously go over each and every game and game companies details to figure out what’s what.

Of course, these definitions of indie and independent are our own. We make no claims to be the decider of what those terms mean.

I just hope this helps clear up why we continue to cover games like Shank (which is published by EA), Trine 2 (which is published by Atlus) and Paradox Interactive games. Despite the two former being poublished by large companies, they are still funded by themselves. Additionally, Paradox Interactive always funds it’s games by itself.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment here or email me at geoff(dot)gibson(at)diygamer.com.

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