The rise of small, short and often “indie” developed games over the past few years, has been dramatic, and is a change which has not only shaken how way we think about video games, but how we play them too. And it is a change I couldn’t be happier about.
Ever since the launch of the Xbox Live Arcade back in 2005 on the Xbox 360, we have slowly seen a shift from large “Triple A” games, being developed and released by huge corporations, such as Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft and EA to name just a few, to a more indie focused industry. An industry where small development teams are creating short and often very unique games. Games which take players far less time to finish, and usually are much cheaper in comparison to the larger franchises, such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed.
These are the types of I love to play now. Whenever I hear about a new episodic series announced, I’m smiling from ear to ear, whenever a new game is announced to have a campaign or playtime of less than ten hours, I internally squeal with delight. Because I actually have the time to play them, and enjoy the rich and interesting worlds the developers have created.
Before moving to Adelaide for university, I had all the time in the world to play any and all games, regardless of size or length. A new Final Fantasy? No problem. Bethesda announces the next Elder Scrolls game, not an issue. Like many of you reading, had the time to play them and become encapsulated for days on end, without any worries. But unfortunately, ever since moving and starting Uni, I just don’t the time for games like that anymore. They are honestly just too big, long and unforgiving in how much time they absorb.
When the Witcher 3 came out last year I couldn’t be more excited, a sprawling and huge fantasy RPG to lose myself in. But I’ve never come close to finishing that great game, simply because it is just too damn big! So now, when I do find any time to play games, I try to find experiences which are shorter, at times easy and normally cheaper, ones which fit a student life (especially the cheap part!) and an adult life a whole lot easier. Luckily for us, there is an abundance of these types of games available now, and a lot of them are fantastic.
To name a few, Ori and the Blind Forest, Axiom Verge, Her Story, Everybody’s gone to the Rapture, Firewatch, all which have come out over the past fifteen months, you can finish in under ten hours and are fun and unique games. Games which I could never imagine playing just a few years ago, which are now some of my favourite experiences. Even mobile games, which normally aren’t my cup of tea, are more appealing now because they offer incredibly short and fun experiences which you can play on the go.
The change to and success of these smaller and “indie” games, has not only led to more diverse and interesting games, but has changed the video game industry too. Previously, you would need huge teams of hundreds of people, with an incredibly amount of funding from a publisher to create a successful game. But now there are more developers than ever trying their luck at “indie” development, and creating studios based around small, meaningful experiences. And being successful too!
This is especially true in Australia, where a majority of the video game scene has shifted to indie development. And although to begin with many studios struggled in the early years of this transition, indie gaming couldn’t be any bigger today. When I attended PAX Australia (A video game convention) last year, there were over eighty “indie” games on show for the public, and throughout the three days of the convention, they were overloaded with people who were just as excited as me, to try new, short and unique experiences.
In the long run change is often for the best and can lead to outcomes we never could have imagined. In the case of indie gaming, and the rise of shorter and more unique experiences from smaller developers, it couldn’t have been a better outcome. Triple A gaming hasn’t died, there are more ridiculously huge and lengthy rpgs and shooters than ever. But the video game industry is now much more diverse and large; there is room for both triple A games, and smaller indie ones to coexist. An outcome I couldn’t be happier about.
(This article was originally written and published in Empire Times, the Flinders University magazine in 2016.)