I’m a gamer. I’ve been one my entire existence. Whenever I think back to the earliest memories I have, they always involve an NES or my Super Mario Bros. figurines that I would carry in a wooden toolbox everywhere I went– at least that’s what my mom says about that toolbox part. Video games have always been an integral piece of who I am as an individual and will continue to be until I’m out of lives. With the growth of the video game industry and nerd culture becoming main stream pop culture over the last decade we are in a state where there are so many games available for anyone to play. Whether it be on a computer, a dedicated gaming device, or a smartphone, video games have become interwoven with most people’s daily routine– myself included.
The marvelous reality that has come to fruition over the last few years is that smaller development studios are able to find ways to create their dreams. Whether it be a crowdfunding campaign or being published by many of the larger publishers working with smaller companies to help distribute their game across different platforms– the avenue for indie games is a much broader street than it was years prior. Though, this doesn’t necessarily bare a perfect scenario. With the surge in indie games, marketplaces can easily get flooded and games can go unnoticed. This is one of the reasons why I choose to seek out independently developed games that pique my interest– because so many great indie games are drowned out by the waves of new releases weekly.
Though, with all of that being said, I want to be clear that I play games in all genres, across multiple platforms, am always trying to find more time for my favorites, looking for chances to revisit classics, and love games from triple A to free-to-play mobile games. Within the last few years, the quantity of quality independent games has increased exponentially which makes it even harder for great games to break through the noise when their budgets for advertising may not be as high or as existent as their large publisher cousins. That’s rather unfortunate because there are so many amazing experiences crafted by passionate people who may not see the success these games deserve and realize the amount of people who could be touched by them.
Two of the most recent examples of this for myself are Membrane and West of Loathing. I discovered Membrane through its creator Seth via Twitter. Intrigued by the concept, we chatted further about the game both via the internet and later as a guest on the Pass The Controller Podcast. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for that chance encounter of me scrolling through related tweets, there’s a chance I may have never had the opportunity to play this wonderful physics based puzzle-platformer that stands on its own as something unique in the gaming landscape. Of course there could’ve been other ways I discovered it but those would have all been by chance– just as this was.
This isn’t to say that if this game had more marketing behind it that it could’ve grabbed my attention that way, because the Switch port of West of Loathing was featured in one of the Nintendo Directs and my initial reaction was that it didn’t seem like a game that was for me. Granted, after reading into it more the week of the game’s launch I decided to give it a shot and fell in love– though it wasn’t the feature in the Nintendo Direct that sold me on purchasing it, it was reading people’s thoughts on the game. Thankfully I decided to give Asymmetric’s witty turn-based RPG a chance because it has quickly risen up as one of my favorite games of this year with actual laugh out loud moments from the dialogue embedded in every interaction– I’ve never enjoyed reading this much.
Both of these recent experiences are a small piece of what drove me to finally express my thoughts on the state of indie games and the power that people have to help a wonderful game get recognition from more gamers. With any game studio, there are people that are beyond the screens in your living room that are exerting their creative energy into something they hope people enjoy and though every experience may not be perfect or for you, that doesn’t mean that it was a malicious effort.
Through many of the relationships I have forged throughout the industry, an alarmingly common thread I hear amongst developers is that there is a large portion of people who will only play their game if given a free code. Are the gamers looking for free copies a vocal minority? Do these gamers really never purchase any of the games that they are denied free copies of? After much thought, I can’t imagine a way to answer those questions, but what is certain is that more people do need to seek out indie titles and when they do, they need to share their stories, leave reviews, and help deliver that message to fellow gamers as well as developers so that they can see that their visions are being enjoyed by gamers around the world.
Lately, I find myself being just as excited if not more for some of the indie games that are on the horizon. Over the last few years some of my favorite gaming moments have been enjoying a myriad of indie games some of which I am going to list right below with links to their website because more people need to know about them:
- Shovel Knight
- The Messenger
- Battle Chef Brigade
- West of Loathing
- Golf Story
- Light Fall
Some of those games you may recognize, some you may not. All of them– and so many more– deserve your time and attention. In doing what I do with Pass The Controller I occasionally receive codes for games but I also support the developers through my meager soap box by creating content and sharing my experiences with their game in order to help lead other people to games that might be worth their time. Though, more often than not I am purchasing the game myself or purchasing an additional copy of the game on a different platform. Granted, everyone has budgets and can only allocate a certain amount of time and money to their gaming regiment, some of these developers live and die by the success of their release and people begging for free copies without supporting the developers can be a challenging position for studios to find themselves.
I urge you to give more independent games a chance. Look for games that interest you and read reviews from multiple sources from the gaming press to people who are in that game’s community. Independent development studios deserved to be recognized as one of the core pillars of gaming, some of the most passionate people are pouring their lives into these pixels and they warrant a purchase.
For all things indie game related and more keep it locked to Pass The Controller– for a in depth opinions on video games and all things nerd culture listen to the Pass The Controller Podcast and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.