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A Gaming New Wave: The Bohemian Game Designer
by Jay Bedeau on 11/15/12 03:47:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The question I pose to the wider community is, has our artform found itself now inextricably linked to the Bohemian heritage of all the arts through its indies? Or are the keyboard warriors and garage studios of today driven primarily by the pursuit of wealth?

Everyone knows Banksy. The graffitti artist known by his alias alone. Disruptive, provocative, infamous. His art is mirrored by the work of Terry Cavanagh, Jane McGonigal, Joakim Sandberg and countless others. The idea behind art-for-art's-sake is to cherish expression above all else. The question is: is art-solely-for-profit at risk of become the overwhelming consensus?

I love the indie scene. A world of emerging talent oozes out of Kickstarter and established portals like the App Store, Play Store, XBLA, PSN, Desura, HIB, Gamersgate, Steam and others.


Some indies have no marketing budget, they have no funding outside their job earnings or savings, their story is one of unwavering determination. Are we at risk of ignoring these voices as our portals become increasingly populated? Should we even take these voices into consideration at all?

The reason I pose this question is to cause discussion on wheter the artist and their struggle necessitates a new category of classification in gaming. Even within the indie scene there ought to be a means of discovering the art-for-art's sake avant garde.

Indie blogs and magazines explore this but I think this scene needs to be expanded far further to become an experience where the truly art-for-art's sake are - always - the majority. 

Long have I been a believer in the power of expression through games, the eruption of the senses which unfolds as you enter a new Universe in pursuit of a goal. Players become both the conduit, the protagonist, often the subject also, simultaneously. This I feel, is essentially the most powerful element of our artform.


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Game Design Faculty


Michael Joseph
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Assuming the technical barriers to making games remains high for the forseable future and we have signficant reliance on technical folks to create games, then we need to encourage and promote the hacker ethic. Will a John Carmack release a novel free game he put together over the weekend during a moment of inspiration? Are the rock stars still rocking out? Can we get big name developers to sign up to an annual elite game jam and challenge and inspire each other as well as set an example for everyone else that making great games doesn't have to involve multi-year committments.

And maybe do some outreach and cross polination and include for example Demoscene contests at the same venues as indie game jams.

I think we also need to have more examples of what these sorts of games look like. Speaking for myself, I sense there's a bright future in gaming as it relates to bold innovation and artistic expression, but I have only the vaguest of ideas as to what that future looks like. Maybe our collective artistry and creativity is beginning to atrophy after being beseiged by so much *ville and Call of Assassins Warfare Halo Gear Effect IX

Can we encourage more people to make the games they want to make even if it wont sell a ton of copies (although it might just do that too) and quit worrying about getting a share of a particular market or demographic.

How do we get more people to make their Dwarf Fortresses. Making a game "because I think it will be cool" or "because it's something I want to play" or "because nothing like it has been done before" now gets you laughed out of the business meeting.

And maybe we are still lacking in a major way, practical game design knowledge. New developers wind up spending a great deal of time learning how to structure their programs and just getting boiler plate functionality in place. There's a sense that you can't write the equivalent of a poem anymore, the least effort still feels like writing a full blown novel, in the middle is a trilogy, and recreating all of the worlds of Shakespeare is at the top requiring several lifetimes or a 100 man team.

p.s. and there are alot of indie games being made by developers who just want to make something cool that they want to play. You just don't hear about them. So the other problem is when we wish for art for art's sake games, we're also secretly wishing for those games to have mass appeal and in a sense make a political statement in the process as well as provide some sense of having been vindicated

Jay Bedeau
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What a response! Truer words have never been spoken. I think you're well on the mark with the references to the Hacker ethic and AAA - indie cross polination. Mate, I urge you to write a follow-up article.

Brandon Van Every
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Short contests and jam sessions are rather limited as to what they can produce. Throwing away a weekend on something, and throwing away a man year, are substantially different exercises requiring much different funding. Let's not be too quick to lionize this "Art" as more than a warmup exercise.

If there's anything artistic about a given game, try calling it an Art Game. The one who writes it could be called an Artist.

Michael Joseph
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maybe one day gamasutra will create a dedicated space for indie game news. Or maybe they'll spend more cycles on it at the main page. The cool thing about indie scene is these folks are enthusiastic and it's exciting following their work. Following the work of *ville and Call of Assassins Warfare Halo Gear Effect IX... not exciting at all. It's bordering on the depressing actually.

Brandon Van Every
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Actually I've started reading Gamasutra again because obviously there's a *lot* more indie energy in it than there used to be. I tuned out Gamasutra for about a decade. I sense a generational shift. I think younger game developers have grown up with more knowledge of game design, more hunger for carving out new space, and more indies.

Luis Guimaraes
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The blog is a sidekick of Gamasutra.

Steve Fulton
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I think Gamasutra *is* that place. Heck, they let *me* have a voice!

Raymond Ortgiesen
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As much as I love what the indie community is bringing to game design, I think it's really dangerous to start throwing around ideas like "true indies have no marketing budget". I don't want the indie scene to set up a wall between themselves and the rest of the industry. To discredit the artistic intent of every game sold for money seems like over reaching. Fallout 3 isn't Banksy but let's not act like everyone can or should be, indie or not. We should just be encouraging game design, whether you want to do it in a studio or in your apartment I don't really care. Death to "true" anything, long live games!

Miroslav Martinovic
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I personally am making my game primarily for the expression's sake, but I'm also hoping that it's interesting and unique enough to make me wealthy, or at least to make the invested time kind of financially worthwile. I know, I'm a dreamer...

Jay Bedeau
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You're not a dreamer, you're the future. That is the philosophy Lana and Andy Wachowski took when creating The Matrix - a film that has earned more than $1bn. The success the film has achieved is amazing and it has completely redefined the sci-fi action genre.

Luis Guimaraes
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One has to ask between three possible rewards from making games and weight them in the order of which you find the most important:

- Money (to get rich)
- Recognition (to be proud of your work, to make a difference in the medium, to spawn a new genre...)
- Fun (just for the sake of it)

We did it recently with our co-funders before contacting a marketing company that showed interest in our game, to define how far we'd go if needed.

Our technical programmer choose Money>Fun>Recognition, but said he'd never agree with changing our duck color to pink if the marketing suggested it based on research.

Our business/project manager went Fun>Money>Recognition as he has other business and still dedicates a lot of time (and sometimes some money) to our startup, but he defends we need our Fun job to be sustainable.

I ended up Recognition>Fun>Money as I want to push the envelope and inspire future games ("I want to make something I'm proud of" fits as Recognition), but I consider Fun as something I already have doing it and tie it to the first case, but also agree we need a sustainable source of Fun, and a sustainable opportunity of making a difference and wouldn't mind our duck char going pink.

Furthermore you need a strategy to keep the reason you make games in a sustainable state. And therefore you need Money even if your purpose is not making a lot of money, you need some (unless you're a loto winner and don't care for working).

@Brandon Van Every: "I want to work on my games full time. I can't do that if I have some non-game employer or contract that I'm beholden to, or if my own game doesn't make money."

Pretty much that.

Steve Fulton
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Yes, yes yes. The games indies make with kind of ethic will transcend arguments about pay wall vs. FTP etc. and help widen the emotions and feelings expressed by games. It's not easy though. I'm still struggling to express myself in games, and I've made dozens.