For those who don’t know, I’m a gaming geek. I’ve been playing video games since back when my dad got a Sega Genesis. I remember playing X-Men, Sonic Pinball, and watching my dad play games like Pitfall. I’ve always had a passion for gaming and even kept up with it when I went about three years without it.
A thought popped into my head recently. I was playing KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) when I thought, “The quality of games isn’t what it used to be.” I didn’t mean on a case-by-case basis – of course gaming is better nowadays than the blocky, pixelated days of yesteryear – I meant as a whole. When thinking back, it’s easy to think about how many great games used to come out regularly compared to today’s blockbuster culture.
The gaming industry has turned into a mirror of the movie industry. Each year there are a handful of big blockbuster games that everyone hears about and looks forward to, while a few smaller titles make some surprising buzz and a plethora of garbage is thrown on shelves and instantly forgotten.
However, I instantly had to discredit my own line of thinking. It’s easy to remember all the games of the past that we still enjoy today but we often forget just how much garbage was created and forgotten too. After a while the years tend to run together and we forget just how much time passed between the releases of titles we now consider classics.
In fact, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized we’re living in the greatest age of gaming yet. Sure, on the surface there’s the big blockbuster culture, but those of us who are true fans of the craft know the reality of the situation is quite different. The reality is we have something the movie industry doesn’t – the gaming indie industry.
Before you start your “There’s a movie indie industry too dumbass” comment, know I’m fully aware of that and understand that good indie movies come out each year too. But right now the gaming industry is going through an indie renaissance.
Sure, a lot of crap is coming down the pike, but in a short period of time indie developers have started shifting the gaming industry as a whole almost through sheer willpower. Games like Divinity: Original Sin, Don’t Starve, This War of Mine, Shovel Knight, and countless others have all left their mark on their respective years of gaming and will be talked about and remembered for decades.
Hell, just look at Minecraft! It was created by one man and has spawned an entire gaming genre that has led to Terraria, Starbound and countless other games people will continue to play for years. I haven’t done the research, but how often do indie movies have such a profound impact on their industry? I’d venture to say not nearly as much as indie games have had in a much shorter time span.
Indie games have slowly crept their way onto consoles and are revolutionizing the games industry as a whole. We’ll never be completely rid of the pre-order-based big blockbuster culture – it makes too many rich people richer for it to go away completely and it at least gives us something to talk about on a regular basis – but indie developers have proven, and continue to prove, that they can create great experiences that rival and many times outshine their big budget counterparts.
It’s, if nothing else, something to be excited about if you’re an avid gamer and gives us infinite hope for the future. We don’t have to worry about AAA shitting the bed or ignoring one of our favorite niche genres because we know there’s an indie dev right around the corner with something that’ll make each year of gaming just as special and successful as the last.