Is indie really a genre?

Just kidding. Don't say swag. Opps.
Walk into the store like, “Yo, waddup I’m lookin for some Indie swag.”

Create a new tab and go to your favorite online game store now. Be it Steam, Greenmangaming, Getgamesgo or any of your choice that I don’t know about, you’re bound to find the “Indie” category. And on steam, “Indie” is a genre. It seems curiously strange to me that a distribution model could become a means of classification of gameplay. But first, before we delve into the mysteries of the phantom “Indie” genre, we must first investigate the lore of both “Genre” and “Indie games”.

1.a class or category of artistic endeavor having a particular
form, content, technique, or the
like: the genre of epic poetry; the genre of symphonic music.

For the sake of this discussion, we will disregard genre when used pertaining to “Fine arts”.

Independent video games

 (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support.

Now, with both of our terms declared, we can now begin discussion with full efficiency.

To constitute as a genre, we must be able to find a defining trait which Indie games all possess as a part of gameplay that defines that. Valid and established genres include FPSes, Platformers, Puzzles, RPG and much, much more. As far as we know it, the industry have been mixing and matching suitable genres as a form of innovation. Almost all action RPG has a small bit of Puzzle or Platforming thrown into them. So from the way I see it: Indie Games can be a mix of genre, but it must be a case where being “Indie” is the key definition of the game, whilst Platforming and other whatnots are just small elements of the game thrown into the mix.

Indie Game example: Braid
Indie Game example: Braid

So here we are, trying to make sense of this categorization while looking through my steam library. Sure, Braid does have some similarity with Limbo, but what about Bastion or World of Goo?

The Humble (Indie, sometimes) Bundle has jumpstarted a whole new generation(or genre, arguably) of gaming. Together with various other Bundle sites like and Groupees’ Greenlight Bundles, and not forgetting the Steam Greenlight movement, we have seen more success in the Indie gaming industry more than we ever had.

Humble Bundle 5. What do these games have in common?
Humble Bundle 5. What do these games have in common?

Well, do you like Indie games?
Oh hell yes I do. 
And why is that so?

I realized it wasn’t about Gameplay. Maybe it slightly affects gameplay, but it is something more subtle, something that truly lies at the soul of craftsmanship – Innovation.

Something that publishers gave up in the hopes of selling to the majority. Indie developers are, as the name implies, independent; they have no given budget, no financial backing(except for Kickstarter), little to no capital but no restrictions. They have no need to seek publisher approval, no restrictions and best of all: no limiting interests.

They make whatever the hell they want. Some dodgy titles aside, most Indie games are just what their developers made them out to be; untainted by the hands of the industry, free from the grubby hands of publishers looking for a quick cash grab.

It saddens me to see that the only true difference between quality Indie Gaming and AAA Gaming is that of creative limitation.

———-A wave of change?———–

Yager studios, the team behind Spec-Ops: The Line has created a rare gem amongst AAA titles: A game centered around concepts of War, duality of the human nature, PTSD, cognitive dissonance and various other psychological concepts based on warfare itself. It is a critique of the FPS genre itself whilst bearing inspiration drawn from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

"This is all your fault"
“This is all your fault”

Whilst the game acquired a lot of positive reviews, the people behind the game itself were afraid that gamers might not understand the point of the game. This fear is what kills the industry. Are our consumers ready for such a dark, thought-provoking tale? Most publishers would have thrown this game back to the drawing board, but the guys at 2k were just too cool for that. Hats off to Yager Studios, who was the team behind the single player campaign. A shame that it fell short on reviews for multiplayer in the hands of Darkside Game Studios. A piece on why multiplayer is never a necessity. 

I think we all just want something different.

This article is written by PP1MT
He blogs at and has a soft spot for indie titles.
This article is freely reusable, share-able for commercial use
as long as due credit is given.

5 thoughts on “Is indie really a genre?

  1. Lovely article! As a big fan of indie games myself, I’ve often wondered about this as well- and you pretty much nailed it! I’m definitely drawn more towards indie games because of their lack of creative limitation. They’re allowed to make their games for their own emotional and imaginative expression- not to sell the most games- which is often what makes them successful commercially.

    1. Thank you! Yes! The sad thing is those publishers that hold tight reins over developers in the company actually don’t play that much games. To them, its just about milking wallets of teens and young adults.

      You have some really well written articles over there as well 😉

  2. I might only play “indie” games from now on. They are so creative, they’re so easy to find these days, and the price is right. I wonder why I didn’t play more of them in the past!

    Do you think this is the beginning of a golden age for “indie” games?

    1. Haha, me too! More than half of my steam library are indies 😛

      Definitely you can say that it’s a golden age, and I think this will be a great learning experience for those AAA studios as well. Indie developers have become a huge competitor to the studios, and it does not seem to be dying any time soon; instead, with the popularity of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Greenlight, indie games are getting more recognition than they ever have.

      As gamers demand for better story telling and better content, AAA studios will have to crank up the standard or make some drastic changes in order to stay ahead.

      Look at what Square’s doing!

      We are living in very interesting times 🙂

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