In both the 1970s and 1990s, a group of spunky upstart film directors began a fascinating idea in the cinematic world; maybe you don’t need millions of dollars and the backing of huge corporations to make films.
They wanted to act outside a system of huge Hollywood productions and be granted total creative freedom to make their visions into reality. Of course, only the strongest survived, and eventually needed the help of backers to get their films out there. Both times, Hollywood caught on to this trend many believed was breathing life back into American cinema, and both times, all the big studios started their own “indie” branches, kind of defeating the purpose.
The connections between this change in cinema and what the video game industry is going through now are strikingly similar. AAA gaming does all the right moves and creates quality products, but it does so in such a routine and mechanic fashion that it is now sucking the emotion out of video games.
If Call of Duty is the equivalent of 1980s Arnold moving down a room of bad guys with a handgun and emerging unscathed, then LIMBO, Bastion, Braid, and Minecraft are the artsy fresh Pulp Fictions of the gaming world, out there waiting to rescue you from a series of heartless and soulless productions. This seven and a half minute PBS Off Book documentary gives some insight into creating games from several indie developers and what they believe sets them apart from the big boys.
I’ll just take my smug cap off for a second and say that there is plenty of room for both in the world. Mass Effect is one of the best series to emerge from this generation, and it did so with the backing of not one but two huge corporations. The indie games out there have improved leaps and bounds over the years, filling in the gaps AAA gaming might miss out on with their experimental ideas. The result is harmony, and it’s a much better solution than heartless suits or art-house hipsters exclusively running the show.
Do you want Halo 4 to be the future of gaming, or do you want Super Meat Boy to be the future of gaming? Luckily, you don’t live in a world where you have to make that choice.