As I played through an indie game on Friday called Mondo Agency, developed by Cactus, I reflected on how much I’ve changed as a player. Once, I was primarily concerned with the spectacle. The next great game had to be a leap forward in visual presentation. To flat out ignore the technology at hand was an affront to the evolution of the videogames – an intentional step backwards. There was room to be different, as long as the game was ultimately subservient to the technology.
But time passed, and I realized that many of the games I played as a child were fun and their looks still appealing. As games inch closer towards photo-realism and as the benchmarks for the next leap forward in visual fidelity become harder to discern, the standard for progress changes. There are games like Cave Story that reference a golden age, and others, like Mondo Agency, that turn technical limitations into a form of expressionism. Games are freeing themselves from the yoke of technological progress that the public placed upon them for so long.
The evolving expectations of players, in this regard, have played no small part in fueling the explosive growth of the indie game scene. To be sure, there is still a bias most of us hold against indie games that paints them as the new version of games we’ve already played. For instance, Castle Crashers is the long awaited return of the beat’em up. But this perception is quickly changing as games like Mondo Agency and Bit.Trip Beat strike out into their own uncharted territory with mixed, but always interesting results.
As indie games insert themselves into players’ permanent libraries and hallowed gaming memories, they will become the future movers and shakers of the videogame industry. Changes in gameplay and presentation will occur in indie games first and slowly trickle down towards the mainstream spectacles that once led the innovation charge. This issue is a look at the scene pushing indie games beyond downloadable throwaways and towards significance. Issue 209 is about the challenges and successes; the realization that the bright horizon has only just come into sight.