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Devil's Advocate - #185

Feature: Indie games? The little pests are undermining our grand blockbuster future

We're entering an indie-gaming renaissance. Wherever you look, from the PC to the PS3, there are independent developers touting their wares and making a fast buck from their 2D shooter.

But you know what? This is a worrying trend. The Independent Games Festival should be outlawed, and indie gamers admonished. Indie game development is a bad, bad thing.

What's my problem with all those remakes of Robotron? Well, there's a couple of things. Firstly, it's just that: remakes. A Frogger-clone here, a side-scrolling platformer there: we're poking around in the cupboard of history and pulling out ideas that are well past their sell-by date, polishing them up and passing them off as new.

It's a neat trick, but it's an easy one, especially since one half of gamerdom is too young to recall half these originals, and the other half finds itself rapt with nostalgia, and unable to stop itself from indulging in these half-remembered pastimes.

It's exactly the same as the conversation you have about kids' TV shows when you're drunk: "Ooh, do you remember Bagpuss, I loved that." Yeah, but the thing is you don't really remember it and then you buy the DVD and realise it was crap anyway. Not that I ever did that. It was just an example.

Anyway, nostalgia will end up turning gaming into the Ouroboros worm, the snake that swallowed its own tail: the more we depend on this stuff, the more we backpedal, and the more stunted our gaming world becomes. Retro, you see, can mean 'retrograde' as well as 'retrospective'.

Games are about looking forward, celebrating technology and hoisting the flag of progress above the balding pates of those who wish we could all just sit down and enjoy a nice 19th century novel. If there's one thing about gaming that we should celebrate, it's that it's always been about progress. If the Luddites have their way we'll be stuck with different-coloured Tetris games for all eternity.

Which brings me to the other problem: the Independent Games Festival. These chaps have put indie gaming back in the limelight, and with their celebrations and their prizes, they make out that these indie games are somehow worth celebrating over and above their commercial cousins.

And how good can they really be when most of the entries are not even finished? Eh? The IGF is blatantly, openly encouraging young game designers to create games that will never have major commercial success, and will probably be forgotten by this time next year. Hell, some of them might never be playable by the gaming public. Yes, there's something fishy going on.

I believe there might even be some kind of conspiracy to lure creative types away from working at Electronic Arts or Ubisoft, where they could be put to work making FIFA or Rayman even better than it was last year.

What I must ask you to conclude, dear reader, is that there are forces at work that even we cannot fully comprehend, forces that seek to undermine and erode the pretensions of our budding commercial industry.

These indie developers must not be allowed to weaken our resolve to make bigger and more expensive games. Because we all know: bigger is better, and pricier is er... nicier. (Sorry.)

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