Extra Lives: “Indie” is not a genre

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In recent years, independently developed video games have experienced a dramatic rise in popularity that has been largely beneficial for gamers and the industry as a whole. Indie games bring new and fresh ideas to games that are often simply not explored by large developers because the concepts are too “strange” or “out-there.”

This sudden change in the saturation of indie games in the market can be most aptly attributed to the rise of digital distribution. Digital distribution through platforms such as Steam allows indie developers who may not be able to afford to mass produce physical copies of the game to easily bring their work to the masses.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Although this system allows more good games to reach the average consumer, it also allows for games that are much lower in quality to do the same. For every “Papers, Please” there is a “Day One: Garry’s Incident.”

However, the rise of digital distribution (and by extension indie games) has been largely beneficial. Indie games are becoming more and more popularized. They’ve become so popular, in fact, that many place them in an entire category for themselves. In fact, many seem to be under the impression that “indie” is a genre in its own right. Steam classifies “indie” as one of their categories in the storefront. Everyone seems to subscribe to the idea that all indie games are similar enough to be put into the same category.

This is not the case. Indie games are defined as indie games if they are self-produced by a small studio independent of large publishers or corporations. This has nothing to do with the content of the game. Some indie games are platformers, while others are strategy games. Both of these games are indie, but they fall within two very distinct genres. Yet, Steam categorizes them both as simply “indie games.”

This may seem harmless at first, but it is not. This improper characterization of indie games construes them as all being the same, with a disregard for the content within them. Indie games bring new ideas to the market, but if they are all categorized as the same, then people will begin to ignore the traits that make these games stand out from the crowd. The industry will lose the benefits that these games bring if the games are fitted into the “indie” mold that seems to be more and more prevalent. In this scenario, everybody loses.

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