2013-01-18

Why I Love Indie Games

When I was a young lad, video games intrigued me. Each cartridge I blew into and inserted into the magic machine held a mysterious world of wonder and entertainment.

The first game I got hooked on was, perhaps thankfully, Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Couldn't seem to get enough. My four-year-old self would spend hours trying to get farther than I previously had gotten. The first The Legend of Zelda game was also a childhood favorite and no doubt helped foster my imagination and boosted my sense of curiosity and adventure.

There was also Metal Gear, Bionic Commando, Ice Climbers, Guerilla Warfare, Excitebike, Dragon Warrior, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and the list goes on.

Each game felt vastly different. Being new to gaming, I had no previous experience and thus no expectations. It was uncharted territory. Every time I booted up a new game, I had a new play experience to chew on. I was lucky enough to have played a lot of classic games back in the day.

Another fun thing to note is the whole used games yard sale thing. I remember going to yard sales and buying NES games dirt cheap. It was a gamble, but often paid off since any game was a decent game for me back then and presented a new experience to wrap my mind around.

And then I grew up, and things are different now.

I'd never gamble on a relatively cheap game. Why? Because I know all too well what kind of games I like and don't like. If I spot a game and buy it on impulse, it's not much of a gamble since I know I'll enjoy it.

Throughout the years, I've learned what games I like the most. I'm sure I'm not the only one either. Gamers in general seem to know very well what genres they prefer and they aren't afraid of letting others know. The video game industry has gotten extremely good at pumping out an insane number of games that fit into a precise category and cater to a precise fan base. Sometimes I wondered if modern game design is narrowing instead of gradually expanding.

I couldn't help but feel as if my gaming life was less full of surprises than it once was. I rarely strayed from the big games I knew I would like, only occasionally trying out unconventional games. Like many of my gamer friends, I knew well in advance which games I would buy and which I was most likely to enjoy. I was no longer the gamer I was long ago, boldly going wherever the cartridges brought me, trying new game types not because I had to, but because I could.

Then indie games brought back that good old feeling.

Each time I buy a new indie game, I don't exactly know what I'm getting. Quite a few indie games are innovative and excellently designed. In a way, they have to be. Since no corporate publisher is financing and promoting the game, indie games almost have to be extremely well-made to survive and be successful.

Journey. Minecraft. Limbo. Braid. Thirty Flights of Loving. To the Moon. The Binding of Isaac. Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP. I love all of these games, much like I did the NES games of old. All are unique and innovative enough to surprise me and give me a fresh game experience, yet well-designed as to please my ridiculously high standards for quality brought on by years of AAA gaming.

I know these indie gems are the games I will remember as my favourites twenty years down the road, not the Assassin's Creeds, Call of Dutys or Mass Effects. These games are good and I will surely remember them, but I can't help but feel I'm getting more of the same game experiences I've been having for the last decade or so.

While talking with my friend Adrien Theriault about my newfound love of indie games, he said that they helped reinvigorate his curiosity in gaming. After thinking about this, it makes perfect sense. It happened to me too, only I didn't realise how or why until recently.

Indie games are mostly really cheap too, so I don't mind buying a few just to see what they're like, much like the yard sale cartridges. As an added bonus, the indie game developers get a very large chunk (if not all) of the money you give them since no looming corporation is there to grab their share. Nothing better than directly supporting something you really like.

In a time where even Super Mario can't escape the yearly rehash formula, it's nice to see that more and more great indie games are there to give me that adventurous feeling of trying something new and innovative. It's a breath of fresh air that I've needed for a long time.

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