Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

It\’s All About Pen, Paper and People.

What Is Indie?

Posted by Nathan P. on June 10, 2006

For better or for worse, “indie design” has become synonymous with “the Forge.”

It’s the same in music. “Indie rock” has become a label for a particular sound, not for the quality of being released without a deal with a record label. I’m willing to bet that, for most of the people who actually pay attention to such things, saying “I’m an indie game designer” is pretty much saying “I’m a willing participant in the Forge community,” with the heavy implication of “I agree with/follow ‘Forge Theory'”.

My point here is not to say “indie is the new mainsteam” or “the Forge is a bunch of wankers,” or whatever. My point is that, these days, it seems to me that the indie label is a marketing concern. There are people who will buy your games because they identify you as part of the Forge, and there are people who will specificially not buy them for the same reason.

So, if you read my last post, then you will see my concern with calling that rubric the “Indie Designers Guide to Game Design.” Not to mention that lacking creator ownership doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to you, or something.

So…whats the most accurate way to express it? The Modern Designers Guide? The Small-Press Designers Guide? One Dude’s Guide? The RPG Design Guide?

Second question. Would there be a point to such a project? Or is there something about going through the design process the way the majority of us have (really liking RPGs, tinkering with mechanics, stumbling across small-press games, designers and competitions on the internet, getting feedback and doing a bunch of reading) that would be lost in it?

Thoughts?

5 Responses to “What Is Indie?”

  1. Yes, indie/independent/small-press shouldn’t have anything to do with the nature of the design itself–should it?

    Sole exception to that, one might argue, is that pace the association with The Forge, indie/independent could imply a different set of priorities that might affect design–something that I think is touched on at “The Nuked Apple Cart” and some other stuff about publishing in the Infamous Five at The Forge. I don’t know if I buy the idea myself, but the argument could go that decisions about decision should flow from decisions about how the game will be disseminated (for free? POD? Download sale? store?) as well as broader marketing questions, like whether the game would be designed to hook people for supplement sales, etc.

    But otherwise, maybe “RPG Designer’s Handbook”.

    And shouldn’t that last bunch of stuff about process be a part of the guide/handbook/resource?

  2. Make that “decisions about design”…

  3. I think you should call it “The Designer’s Guide to Role-Playing Game Design.” Didn’t you say you wanted it to be for everyone, even mainstream designers?

  4. Ewen said

    The outline in your previous post has a lot of stuff that grew out of the Forge community, but I don’t see anything that wouldn’t apply to anyone who’s designing an RPG. Forge/indie games might have a closer relationship to RPG theory than most, but they aren’t unique in their ability to benefit from it.

    As for the second question, I don’t think compiling a guide like what you’re proposing would take away from the design process. Like most good guide books, it shouldn’t tell you what to do, just point the way to new questions to ask. And if nothing else it would put in one place things that are presently spread across dozens of Forge articles and blog posts.

    As an analogy, the very best “How to Draw Manga” book I’ve seen is called “How To Draw Manga In Your Own Unique Style,” and it’s mostly advice to help you walk on the right path yourself. Instead of saying “you should color like THIS” it’ll talk about color theory and the differences between Photoshop and Painter. In that respect I think you’re on the right track.

    The only concern I could see is that the guide would be a “snapshot” of something that is constantly evolving. Push & Pull is pretty recent, and by the time you finish compiling the guide there’ll undoubtedly be something new to add to the Methods & Conceptual Frameworks section.

  5. Nathan P. said

    Elliot – well, that kind of stuff would go into the Publishing chapter. Like, when to start thinking about the final product, how that can/should/would impact design decisions, etc.

    Ewen – Well put. I think snapshots are ok, as long as they acknowledge themselves as such.

    Generic-y title is probably better.

    Also, maybe something in the Design Trends would be about the Traditional Process, the Indie Process, etc. That would be interesting.

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