With Grand Theft Auto V holding a firm grasp on the media, Eva Griffin wonders where indie games come into the equation
Whether receiving good press or bad, the talking point in the gaming industry as of late has undoubtedly been the long-awaited release of Grand Theft Auto V. Whether you proudly declare yourself a lover of video games, or identify as a gaming-virgin, there was simply no escape from the latest Rockstar release as that poster of the buxom blonde in a red bikini graced magazines, billboards, buses and social media outlets.
While the mass coverage was, of course, expected, this puts lesser-known developers in a somewhat awkward situation; they may have content to release, but are aware that it’s wise to wait until the GTA-storm has calmed.
Given Rockstar’s reputation, they can make announcements, produce trailers, and release a game whenever they please; safe in the knowledge that they’ll get a sufficient amount of media attention. For indie developers, they have to pick and choose their moments by working around AAA developer schedules, or they’ll struggle to be noticed and risk getting swept under the rug.
Should a conscious effort be made to provide equal coverage, or would this only serve to alienate the targeted audience? Grand Theft Auto is incredibly popular, but is the franchise’s domination of the media justified? Granted, statistics play an important part in what journalists choose to cover, and it could be a potential risk to deviate from this structure of appealing to popular tastes.
With this cycle continuing to run as per usual, there is a sense of the privileged consistently gaining further privileges. Of course, a game’s popularity deems it deserving of mass coverage, but it serves as an unfair advantage when there are countless worthwhile indie games waiting to be played, but lacking the media attention to build a stable fan base.
This creates a difficult situation for indie developers, where they’re somewhat restricted in terms of releasing trailers and promotional information for fear of getting lost in the media buzz around bigger titles.
That isn’t to say that they don’t get any attention, as a myriad of games-oriented publications and websites strive to draw attention to indie releases. Unfortunately, it seems as though the mainstream media is not as quick to catch on.
Unlike other cultural mediums such as music and film, common publications have not yet accepted all aspects of the gaming industry. While you may read about an indie band or film in various magazines or websites you come across, it’s more of a rarity to come across articles concerning indie games, unless you’re searching in a games focused publication.
Many game enthusiasts believe that the majority of innovative indie titles are to be held in higher esteem than some lacklustre AAA titles. With this in mind, it seems as though mainstream media chooses to focus on one aspect of the gaming industry, in the same vein as action movies are just one aspect of the film industry.
A ‘casual’ gamer who loves Grand Theft Auto would probably take a liking to Hypno Vol. I, but if their exposure is limited to populist media, billboards, bus stops, the Twitterverse and numerous posts by Facebook friends, they may never hear of it.
This sort of media frenzy limits what kind of games casual gamers are exposed to, so an indie developer is going to be consistently relying on enthusiast gamers and the divide in the gaming community becomes a lot more obvious. If you stick to mainstream releases, you run the risk of being labelled merely ‘casual’ in your gaming experience.
Perhaps the lack of media attention is yet another charming element of indie titles, but could this be actively preventing the progression of lesser-known developers? Exceptions to the rule have thankfully graced the scene. Dennaton Games’ Hotline Miami and Polytron Corporations’ Fez are prime examples, but hopefully that the occurrence won’t remain somewhat of a rarity.
Even though the previously mentioned games did make a big impression on the gaming community, there’s still a certain struggle for legitimacy with regards to indie games taking on the mainstream scene. Without a big developer name like Rockstar behind you, it may be hard to get noticed, and begging desperately for attention is likely to hurt your cause, though shouting a little would probably help.
It would be a relief to see more ‘casual’ gamers experience what the world of indie developers has to offer, the possibility exists that this territory will be forever marked by the enthusiasts of the gaming community.
There is a sense of ownership prevalent within the hard-core fans lurking in the depths of the internet inhabited by gaming forums. This could be justified by the fact that yes, they are incredibly dedicated to games, but if we can’t rely on the media to promote smaller titles then perhaps it’s up to the passionate gamers to aid the cause and spread the word.
If all else fails, then indie developers need to find some other way to make their voices heard and get their material out there, provided it’s worthy of attention.