What Distinguishes Independent Games From the Rest?

I mentioned Eludamos a while back: it's an open access academic journal dealing with games. They released volume 2, issue 1 last month, and there's plenty of interesting reading to be had, if you're into that sort of thing. Ian Bogost mentioned one particularly interesting article on the indie/mainstream divide in games, which uses the independent film industry as a comparison point. Well, sort of. The author expounds that the very things that generally distinguish independent films from their mainstream counterparts break down when it comes to the indie/mainstream game divide. It's not so much an issue of opposition to a dominant norm when it comes to games; on the contrary, it's a matter of tweaking mechanics and other aspects while still fitting into a mainstream framework:

Accordingly, independent games, in general, are - compared to independent films - even less to be understood as the 'radical other' in the face of an (imagined) mainstream culture - despite the heterogeneity and the hybridity of practices that the label independent incorporates in both cultural fields. (Ambitious) independent games may from time to time bear up against products of the dominant game industry when it comes to being innovative or creative and they may sometimes differ distinctly from the outward appearance of mainstream games - but this difference does not include an oppositional logic that is explicitly recognisable as negation or challenge of mainstream game forms.

The author sort of falls down in his analysis of why 'innovation' sets independent games apart. It's certainly true that the 'provocative and controversial vs. mainstream' paradigm doesn't work so well with games, since plenty of mainstream titles are likely to cause journalists and lawyers to foam at the mouth with their controversial and provocative subject matter. The whole issue has some interesting articles scattered about and is worth a page through.

Innovation NOT Opposition: The Logic of Distinction of Independent Games [Eludamos via
Water Cooler Games
]


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