Games, Life

What is Indie?

“What is indie?” the younger boy asked.

“Indie means you have to work harder.” the older brother answered.

Arcade Boat 2011

I watched a Japanese film called I Wish in July. It’s a story about two little brothers trying to re-unite their separated parents – an uplifting film that made me smile.

In the film, the dad of the two kids was a singer/guitarist in a small band that had just published an indie album. The boys didn’t really understand the meaning of indie, and had the conversation quoted above. 

We place romantic connotations to the world indie. We proudly call Studio Pepwuper an indie game studio, participate in the local indie community in Seattle, and pre-ordered Indie Game: The Movie months in advance. 

But what is indie? 

It’s hard to create a definition that everyone can agree on to determine who is indie and who is not. Can we define it with financial structure – studios with corporate financiers (publishers, investors) do not apply? We’d be excluding some of the so-called best indie studios this way. Is it determined by the size of the company? The location? The age? Is it how the developers define their lifestyles? No matter how we try to define it, we can find examples of brilliant indie studios that sit right outside of our definition. 

A universally agreed definition of indie somehow seems too mainstream or corporate or un-indie-like. It lacks the independent thinking the indies adore. 

In fact, independent thinking is the only common ground for everyone who considers themselves indies. The indie spirit is to be different, to embrace the creative freedom of being independent from restrains and restrictions and expectations and deadlines and milestones and hierarchies and corporate politics…etc

Then, is the indie spirit stemmed from… the escape of responsibilities? 

Quite the opposite. 

Being indie doesn’t mean we are free from responsibilities. Being indie means we are 100% responsible for everything – every decision and mistake we make. There is no one else to blame.

We can no longer blame corporate politics for project delays. We can no longer blame marketing department for interfering with production. We can no longer blame financiers for shifting their focus to the next cash cow. Because, well, we are the politics and the marketing and the financiers ourselves. If anything isn’t going the way we’d planned, we have only ourselves to blame. 

True independence comes from 100% responsibility. I read that from somewhere a few years ago right before I started the studio, and I jotted it down and put it on the About page.

Our responsibilities define us as indies.

“Indie means you have to work harder.” The little boy in the film is right after all. 

 


Previously a strategist at Sony and a developer at EA, Brandon is the founder of Studio Pepwuper and co-founder of 30 Day Books who loves design, music, books, and games. He's also a bestselling author on Amazon and an avid violin player. (more about Brandon) --- Brandon holds an MBA from USC and an Economics degree from UC Berkeley.

(Pardon me for my typos and grammatical errors. Confession - I am a fob. :) - Brandon)



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