Daily Reaction: PS Plus Vote to Play – Are We Generalizing Indie Games?

August 12, 2015 Written by Chandler Wood

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Initially rumored, then confirmed, and now finally put into action, Vote to Play allows gamers to vote on one of three games to be a part of the following month’s Plus free titles, with the other two receiving Plus discounts. Right  on cue, comments sections were filled with readers decrying the “junk indies” and “garbage choices” that were offered as the three. In light of this, Daily Reaction is looking at the generalization of indie games and “judging a book by its cover.”

Chandler: The slinging around of the term “indie” like it’s a negative thing frustrates me. What is indie? It’s short for independent. Traditionally this is media that is unrestricted creatively by an overseeing publisher who can make certain demands and need to satisfy investors. With no publisher backing, this also typically means that the budget is lower. Graphics often take on a less important role as the central focus is on a particular creative idea or narrative message, though this isn’t always the case, as evidenced by games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

No, indies are not necessarily big budget games. They aren’t Call of Duty. They aren’t Assassin’s Creed. They aren’t a variety of other massive publisher-backed games that the vocal commenting crowd also tend to complain about (I’m sensing a trend here). They are driven by passion rather than investors. So why the hate for indie titles? Why have they been cornered as something that is terrible? Any indie developer instantly has that against them, and they have to struggle and fight just to prove their place in the market, but haven’t we seen time and time again that the true innovation lies in independent development? PS Plus remains an excellent channel to offer recognition to games that may otherwise go overlooked, and at $50 a year, you can’t expect to constantly get full retail titles as one of your six free games per month.

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These small studios are unafraid to fail. Actually, that’s not a fair assessment. I’m sure they are terrified of failing. But rather than being driven by investor relations or the successful sales of their product, they are driven by the heart and passion they have for the product they are creating. On the few occasions I have had to talk to Sean Murray about No Man’s Sky, he has been incredibly humble about his passion project, and has continued to devote time and resources to it, despite initially believing that no one else would like it. His zeal for the work drove him, and continues to drive him as he refuses to believe the massive amounts of hype his game is generating.

It’s an incredible thing to be so impassioned by your work. Most developers that I have talked to love the work that they are doing in the games industry, but the indie developers have that extra spark in their eye. This is more than just a job to them. There’s often much more at stake with indie development than there is if you’re working on the next Call of Duty. That’s not to belittle the guys at Treyarch in any way. They are all very passionate about their work, but they aren’t necessarily putting their next meal or mortgages on the line with each new thing that they add to their game.

Are all indie games great? No, absolutely not. There are some terrible ones out there. There are some terrible big budget titles as well. There’s a whole mess of games that fall somewhere in grand spectrum, and their place in the rankings will vary depending on which person you talk to. I’m not telling you what games you should and shouldn’t like, but the rash assumption that just because a game has a name that you haven’t heard of and is independently developers means it is terrible is wildly ignorant. It’s ok to like something a little lower budget and different. Do your homework, and if it’s not for you, leave it for the people that will enjoy it. I promise you it won’t hurt to let someone else like something you don’t.

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Dan: I couldn’t agree more, but I will have to say that the concept that someone can say something is “crap” without playing it is really what bothers me the most. In an era where gamers endlessly complain about the yearly releases of the “same old games” like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed launching, they are also complaining about things that are completely unique and unfamiliar. I am sure many people will just discount many of the statements as trolling, but it is still a reality that many gamers make sweeping judgments based on very little information, as was seen during the PS Vote to Play news.

Instead of simply complaining about the internet being, well, the internet, I think there is a general issue with the perception and lack of understanding of demographics. Having had to review more than my fair share of games that I never would have touched if it wasn’t required for my work, I have both been incredibly surprised or proven to be right about having low expectations. What this has taught me is that, while some games are not designed for me, it doesn’t mean that there cannot be beauty to be found in products that are made for someone else.

As can also be seen in reviews, there are opinions that I can trust to give me a better understanding of what a title may have to offer, but that is an opinion of someone else that still leaves me with only a partial picture of what I will personally see out of a product. In general, AAA titles are easier to understand, as their design is usually with a more broad approach in hopes to captivate a wider audience. Meanwhile, indie titles are a bit more subjective and require less of an audience to turn a profit, which means that they can be a harder experience to pin down without playing them yourself.

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If you tried to describe some of the biggest indies out there today you would find that people would be uninterested and look at you like you just hung up your controller to play Angry Birds, which is actually a great mobile title. One such game called Rocket League is doing exactly that right now. Being something that could be described as little more than rocket powered cars playing soccer, gamers could easily see this being a kids game or something with little merit and they would be completely wrong. This idea can also be applied to titles like Journey or even Portal, as to fully understand them, you need to really give them a chance.

Taking things even a bit further, while AAA titles can also be easier to understand, they also can offer an experience that only those willing to dive into it will get. Having heard countless times that people have experienced all of what Destiny has had to offer within the first week, I can honestly tell you that they haven’t. They just simply haven’t. As more games are moving to more social climates, the amount of content a player will be able to experience extends far beyond what has been laid out on the tried and true paths that paved the way for older games. Moving forward, gamers are going to have to eventually learn that gaming is coming in all shapes and sizes, and while some things may look like something else, you can never know that until you actually see for yourself.


Has an experience with any indie game ever surprised you? Do you give indie games a chance, or at least do your homework on them first? Let us know in the comments below, email us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or check us out on Twitter @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife.

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