Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Go Indie, Young Man

Erin Hoffman | 4 Jan 2008 17:00
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Take a look around this year's GDC and you will see them, as you may have seen them in years past: They stroll the booths of the IGF, carefully maintaining masks of nonchalance that would do Maxwell Smart proud. They are the steeped, the exhausted: the professional game developers wondering what the garage legions have come up with that we haven't. One in 10 of them may actually be scouting for games to buy from this fast-growing sector of the industry.

By far the most common question posed to game developers from the outside is "How do I break into the industry?" The paths are many, but the answer has always been deceptively simple: You make games. Over the last 10 years that prospect has become increasingly easier to achieve, and the gap between independent game production and professional quality product has grown slimmer and slimmer. Independent games, for their flexibility, their innovation and their separation from the commercial grind of real life game development, are rapidly becoming the new cauldron for inventive game design, and by now every major player with any common sense has started to take notice.

For the good of us all, the indie scene is here to stay. And this is why, if you really love videogames, you might never take a paycheck for them, but you might still make it big.

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star
The game industry as a whole touts the value of passion; it is the buzzword of choice for industry recruiters and is usually, though not always, code for "overtime."

In terms of passion, independents are truly hardcore; while assortments of media professionals do work in games as a "day job" - primarily in the visual arts - even visual artists in independent games are there for the love. And while the focus on passion and motivation (and often free time) that drives many independent games leads to a lower completion rate and a less polished product, it also means that, as in the early days of gaming, the developers have something to prove outside of the current media market. They have a reason to innovate, whereas, for a larger game, every time you innovate you are risking the game's commercial success, which in this definition means a year's worth of intense effort by a potential cast of hundreds. Innovation, by pure virtue of common sense and self preservation, will be condensed.

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