With some of the recent big game releases and game convention season being underway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between big release games and smaller indie titles. I can see the difference between the tremendous amount of work, money, and manpower that goes in to making something as big as Bioshock Infinite, but I also understand that the simple design of a game like Fez takes a large effort as well. However, my ability to recognize the tremendous amount of work that goes in to these so-called “simple” designs, does not mean that everyone can recognize it. By and large, the majority of the game purchasing public overlook these indie darlings. I’d like to think that it’s simply because they are unaware of their existence, but the cynic in me believes that a large part of that is simply because it isn’t all new and shiny.
This all made me think about indie movies and what’s going on there. The advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming options have brought a lot of movies to people’s attention that probably would not have noticed them before. Ever since the success of Clerks, indie movies have grown increasingly more accepted by general audiences. Many of the most popular horror movie in recent memory have been low budget, handheld shot, movies like Paranormal Activity, as opposed to big campy gore-fests like Nightmare on Elm Street when I was a kid.
Regardless of what industry changes have happened, or how technology might affect the making of a movie, I think there is one main reason that your average movie watcher is now more accepting of indie films: people have learned to accept that a movie might have more substance than flash. They are okay with the cinematography maybe not being top-notch, so long as the content of the story being told in the movie is good enough (or maybe the other way around).
I don’t think that average gamers have made this transition yet. There is still a huge section of the people that buy games that will look at games like Fez, Hotline Miami, or Antichamber and ignore them because they don’t have all the bells and whistles that something like the annual release of Call of Duty would have. Yes, there is the dude-bro demographic that would ignore Fez even if you made it look exactly like Gears of War because they just want to “blow shit up,” but the part that bothers me more is the people that will ignore simply because it isn’t pretty enough (although I still think Fez is gorgeous). How many of those same people are blowing through Bioshock Infinite right now and just setting things on fire and shooting people in the heads, without seeing all the wonderful and amazing things that exist in the world of Columbia?
I don’t know how or even if we can force that transition to happen. I’d like to think that we’re at the start of it and that digital distribution of games will make it easier to get consumers to notice some of the more niche titles that exist out there. My fear is that as long as the console manufacturers continue to relentlessly guard the keys of content creation on their devices, the mainstream public will be kept somewhat in the dark. The PC platform and options like Steam make me hopeful there, but I’m wondering where the new console generation will take us.