Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indie as Opting-Out (IGES Part 6)

I've postponed this post for a while.

Initially the scope of the article was going to remain within the ideas of gaming, but as I began scouring my thoughts, I realized that the conclusions I was coming to about Indie Gaming are parallel to many other "Indie" sources.

Let's take for example the Paleolithic diet I follow. The diet attempts to mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors under the assumption we have not evolved much since their time. It excludes processed food, grains, legumes, dairy, and some other things. You essentially eat a shitload of meat and vegetables splashed with fruits and nuts occasionally.

Most of the ideology behind the Paleolithic Diet is against what we've been told makes us healthy. It goes against "Conventional Wisdom" (such as whole grains being healthy and chronic running as being a useful exercise -- it's actually the opposite).

What is conventional wisdom but the cultural beliefs and ideas that have been thrust down our throats since elementary school. In the face of scientific studies and data, the Paleolithic diet, although against what "they" tell us, is more logical and legitimate. One could argue that the primary people in power perpetuate conventional wisdom, or lies, for the sake of profit (I believe they do), but that's beyond the realm of my undertaking here.***

This leads me to my main point...

Indie is Opting Out.

Indie is counterculture.

Paleolithic dieters are tired of the conventional diatribe that plagues our health systems -- So they opt out.

Men have come to realize the rules of feminism and society are broken and illogical -- So they opt out.

Indie musicians and film makers are tired of working for a check and stretch boundaries and ideas about the medium itself -- So they opt out.

Indie video game developers are tired of working under a system that stifles creativity in search of profit -- So they opt out.

My point is hopefully clear by now. Most, if not all, cases of an "indie movement" are essentially individuals opting out of the current system.

In regards to video games specifically, the only way to further the medium to a higher level of art is to allow innovations. It has been shown that man is innovative when he is not on a quest for money, but rather for the sake of being innovative. A simple reference back to my argument that true art and true business are mutually exclusive is in order. It is only possible for the advancement of the medium if developers are allowed to innovate for innovations sake.

The antagonist here, as always, is money. There is no money to be gained with one guy in his basement with an artistic idea. The scope of indie games will remain small until money is pumped into the system.

"But Zac, didn't you just say money and art are mutually exclusive?" Yes, I did. The quest to achieve or produce money and art are mutually exclusive. The writer Albert Camus had the following philosophy:
"Money doesn't buy happiness. Money buys time, which allows one to search for happiness."
In regards to this article, developers are searching for the "freedom to develop." They need money to buy time in order to complete their search for the "freedom to develop." Money is only necessary here because we make it necessary. Fucking stupid concept right?

The issue is money won't be delivered into the system until corporate executives decides indie games are profitable (which is sort of happening right now. They are in no way facilitating it, but rather allowing it to exist).

The issue I see is that indie games will always have a disagreement with industry executives because they are inherently NOT looking to gain profit.

Indie Gaming Goal -- Make games that express artistic intent regardless of money.

Industry Gaming Goal -- Make money regardless of artistic intent.

There's a catch 22 here. For indie games to make money, they need to be profitable. For them to be profitable they have to consider money in their project. Thus, the developer must sacrifice artistic integrity to produce a product that enough people will buy to be considered profitable.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Obviously, we as consumers could just stop accepting garbage AAA games and start demanding games of artistic value, but there's no way that will happen. The majority of the population doesn't even know what artistic value is.

Ultimately, I see indie games as something that will remain indie. There is enough of a following that they can, and will succeed, but not to the extent that the medium of gaming will be transformed.

There is an exhibit being installed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum dedicated to video games, but it is a shallow approach in my opinion. To say "Pong" is art is to stretch the boundaries of the definition to a point that I don't even want to consider.

But if that stretch is the necessary component to challenge the artistic merit of video games once and for all, well...

Let's just hope it doesn't snap back.

***check out the movie Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. Google it and you can watch it online. Couple hours of your time and you will never look at the world the same way again.

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