Being “indie” was always a small trend of people thinking they were cool (most of them are cool, but not because of “being indie” like some hipsters would try, but what they do that makes them “indie”). The “indie” lifestyle is present in almost every aspect of creative culture. “Indie” music, “indie” films, “indie” writing (blogs or self-published), “indie” comics, and of course, “indie” games.
But what exactly does “indie” mean?
Of course, it stands for being “independent,” which according to Wikipedia, is simply being free from any government or corporate interests. If no big publisher is paying you for you to make something, or if you aren’t doing what you are told, then you are technically an “indie” artist.
But does this definition still hold today?
Big publishers aren’t the only source of money anymore. With crowdfunding sites like “Kickstarter” and “IndieGogo,” the general public can become a source of income. Kickstarter in particular only allows creative projects. But then, don’t they have a say in the creative product? Don’t the artists have a obligation to give these backers what they want?
With the whole world watching through the Internet, and with the public a necessary being for a creative project to succeed and financially support “indie” people, is the indie lifestyle still the same?
Here’s my opinion…
Many artists using crowdfunding or other means for money to pay themselves a salary are no longer indie. Money is necessary for equipment, hardware, software, tools, trained professionals, travel, and maybe food. But if you start paying yourself a salary comparable to minimum wage or better, then you are about the same as any non-indie professional, and you have an obligation to whoever is supplying that money.
And if you start your own company? You technically pay your workers, so they themselves are not indie. But you, the boss and salary provider, if paying out of pocket and out of successes from previous work, then you are indie. The indie company cannot exist, unless everyone passionately pursues the dream without being paid until their work is done.
With this definition, “Mighty No. 9” is not indie. “Torment: Tides of Numenera” is not indie. Double Fine’s “Broken Age” is not indie. Recent Kickstarter success “Kingdom Come: Deliverance” is not indie. Or maybe they are, but asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars sounds like they are paying themselves a reasonable salary. These are great games and great developers, but in this new age, I wouldn’t call them “indie” anymore.
If you don’t pay yourself a salary? If you aren’t fully reliant on the public supporting you? Then you aren’t making your art for the money, or the fame. You are making your art because you love it, and there is nothing else you would rather do. And that is why people love indies to begin with.
True #indie: not paying yourself a cent until your product is released, putting all money and effort into realizing your dream.
— Dust Scratch Games (@Dust_Scratch) February 26, 2014
(But then you’d live in your car until you starve to death… I guess a proper balance of both sides is required here. If you would define “indie” differently, let me know below.)