What's an indie game?

January 19, 2020 - 1 min read

In conversation with a friend of mine, we got to the idea that some people won’t play games unless they’re “indie” enough, and the question came up, what does that mean?

The trends I personally consider “indie” are:

  • Prepackaged experiences (e.g. A Cozy Den, Lady Blackbird, much of PBTA). You’re these people, or these sorts of people, it’s this place and this time, go feel what they feel.
  • Mechanics that abstract reality and focus on concept (e.g PBTA Moves, BITD’s Load). This isn’t d20 with stats and skills, you’re going to be doing these specific mechanical things to resolve these specific questions, and/or in a way that delves more into the why than the how.
  • Celebration of marginalized people, or games created by or for marginalized people (e.g. The Watch, Mutants in the Night). You’re not cis straight white people, you’re the Other, here’s what it’s like to be hated for your nature, or here’s what it’s like to only find solace & comfort with similar people.
  • Emphasis on one-shot and convention play. Games designed to be pulled off a shelf and used once, or brought to a convention setting and used as a vehicle for ephemeral social connections.