Articles AVCon 2016

Why the Indie Games Room demands your attention

Before D1DLC I had a pretty narrow view as a gamer. I played the big triple a games almost exclusively and had little to no idea at the existence of indie games. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I just didn’t know much about them and, frankly, had no idea they had the potential to be as good as they are. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with just playing triple a games. They’re bloody good games. But if you take a look around you could be stunned at what you find.

One of the core goals of D1DLC is to support the local industry. Hundreds of outlets will write five different articles on the smallest change announced for whatever gaming juggernaut is rampaging through the internet at any given time. Again, there is nothing wrong with that but there is already plenty of noise in that space. Regurgitating what we see on other sites is not who we are.

We began looking for Australian products. There are no major triple a studios in Australia any more so we turned our gaze to indie games. The first we really came across was Assault Android Cactus.

This game blew my mind. In fact it got a mention, one way or another, on six of the first seven episodes of the podcast (and now has a full review with a gameplay video). As you can see, we’re huge fans of this game. What really blew me away was the fact it was made by three people. THREE PEOPLE! I struggle to comprehend how much work each of them must have done to make this happen.

Assault Android Cactus wasn’t enough to get me to fully embrace indie games, not alone at least. Releases like Total War and Overwatch quickly put the indies to the back of my mind, and to be fair, with good reasons. Total War and Overwatch are two exceptionally good games and have the support of massive advertising and awareness campaigns behind them. They deserve to captivate audiences.

As the initial excitement of these behemoths of gaming receded I began looking once again for some Australian indie games to look at. Hacknet, a game made right in my hometown of Adelaide, had been on my radar for some time. I finally got off the fence and bought it. Let me tell you, that’s the best $10 US I think I’ve ever spent. Truly, this is a game you would never see from a triple a studio, yet it’s exceptional in so many ways.

Two from two, Aussie indie games were on a roll.

That’s not to suggest all indie games, Australian or otherwise, are amazing games. Some are terrible. But the risk for reward is second to none. It’s very rare that you would pay more than $20 US for an indie game and usually they are far less. That’s a great potential return on investment to us as gamers. It’s also an opportunity to fuel ideas and courage in the gaming industry.

I write this the day after attending an indie games testing session at AIE in Adelaide. There were close to 20 games there in various stages of development available to play. Some were generic games that you might see anywhere, done with various levels of skill. Others were nothing more than ideas with developers just wanting to see what happened when people started playing with some basic, inventive mechanics. Others were simply fantastic. I found myself spending far too long engrossed in a puzzle game and there were audible cheers as people tried to best each other’s time in The Icebox. Honestly, how many games make you cheer?

Having had a glimpse of the potential that lay within indie games, and having experienced firsthand the talent within Adelaide and Australia, I’m genuinely excited for what these incredible folks can produce. I’ve had the pleasure of playing some truly innovative and engrossing games, from Animal Snap and Greg’s Eggeventure to Expand and the breathtaking Hollow Knight. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so, so many more and every one of them is worth a look. I’ve come full circle. Now it’s indie games that distract me from triple a games.

One of the biggest hurdles indie games face however is exposure. It’s hard to be heard when Bethesda holds it’s own press conference before E3 and Overwatch is plastered on every wall and bus in town. Breaking through that is a rare thing and generally requires something vastly different to everything else on the market. Even then, how do you market a game unlike any people have seen before. I can think of no way to explain Hacknet in a way that would make someone want to play it – but you should, because it’s fantastic.

And this is why the Indie Games Room is so important. Over 18 000 people are expected to attend AVCon this year and while not all of them will visit the Indie Games Room (although they should) this is the biggest audience many of these games will ever have. Developers will see the way more people interact with their game in two days than they may have in the last two years. These interactions may result in anything from minor tweaks to a game to major overhauls. There is rarely a chance for gamers to have such a significant impact on a game in development.

It’s also a huge chance for a game to gather a vocal and loyal following. For an indie developer every follower matters. Social media has evolved over the last few years and it’s no longer the champion of free advertising for a quality product, it now takes dollars, luck, or a combination to get your product widely seen, regardless of the quality. Without an article on IGN or an appearance on Good Game, getting 100 people to watch a gameplay clip on YouTube is hard. Every view, every share is a hard fought battle to be heard amongst the triple a juggernauts. This is a place where they get to truly shine.

If you’re heading to AVCon this year, stop by the Indie Games Room and see what some incredible people are working on. Beat our Icebox time, try the incredible Hacknet, play the just released Super Mutant Alien Assault, try everything. A lot of it will be incomplete. Some of it will be outright bad. Most of it will be impressive and some of it will blow your mind. And when you find the games you like, make sure you like, follow, subscribe and tell your friends.

Because you’re unlikely to see Battle Briefs get a painted mural in a capital city any time soon…

 

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