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The indie category at the The Game Awards left me unsure of what 'indie game' even means

November 24, 2020 2 min read

"I actually head up a non-profit," said a very clean man in a finely tailored suit. Everyone around him at the party smiled, imagining him as the leader of warm-hearted volunteers who, without an ounce of greed or malice in their hearts, did everything they could to make the world a better place.  

"How much you make?" I asked. I suppose it was a rude question, but hey, he's the one who brought the subject of profit, non or otherwise, into the conversation. I interpreted his decision to volunteer this information as an invitation for inquiry, and I figured he was confident enough to deflect the question if he wasn't comfortable with it.  

"Oh, I do alright," he said with a veiled glare, deflecting as I thought he might, not at all proud to divest how much profit his "non-profit" actually turns in. I found out later that he makes around $1.5 million a year and that his company banked about 20 times that in the same time, diverting much of that yearly surplus into for-profit "sister companies" that also bring in millions.  

I was reminded of this story last week when the Game Awards announced its nominees for the Best Indie category. Like the label non-profit, the spirit behind the word indie and its actual meaning might have nothing to do with each other or even end up being total opposites, depending on the context of the situation. These semantics probably don't matter too much to your average person, but for indie developers engaged in a constant marketing battle for our respect and attention, they can really skew the playing field. I mean, is there any world where it's fair to pit a release like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, developed by a company that employs over 230 staff, about 30 of which worked on the game, against Carrion, created by a start-up studio of three people (not counting the composer) in a contest like this?  

The indie category at the The Game Awards left me unsure of what 'indie game' even means screenshot