Indie month afterword: a career of indie games

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When I first started writing about games professionally I had the same expectations that a lot of young gamers probably have and assumed that I would be rolling in free games. It didn’t take long for reality to come crashing down when Dead Island came out and the hype was still strong, but the review was handed to another writer. Same with the game after that, the one of that, and then a few more. When you join an established site they already have staff that probably called dibs on series, interesting titles, or even entire genres and themes way before you showed up. Free games are certainly there, but not before you put in some of the journalistic legwork.

The first game I got to review was Lucius, an indie game about solving puzzles in a large mansion with the purpose of setting up traps to kill the inhabitants and cover your tracks. I wasn’t happy. It felt like I had been posting news for weeks and when I finally got a game it was some unknown title nobody really cared about and I contemplated just leaving because I was never going to get any of the Resident Evilor Silent Hills. Then I began to get a reputation.

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I was slowly becoming the “indie guy” of Rely on Horror because all I got to cover were the indie games. And while Lucius left me grumpy, after that came AkaneiroDon’t StarveTeleglitchTormentumEldritchOur Darker Purpose. There were so many good indie games that I wouldn’t even have given the time of day when I first joined, but which had become the focus of my career now. Some of these games are among some of my all time favorites and which kept me interested in video games at a time when I felt the majority of the industry was stagnating.

It still sucked a little sometimes. A few titles I was really excited for got picked up by other writers when indie games became really hip, sometimes even titles they had made no effort to cover in the weeks before, and because it were “just indie games” they got away with that pretty easily. There were also dozens of games coming out and especially the horror genre was oversaturated at the time; this meant a lot of my time was wasted trying to sort out the games worth talking about, only for articles to get only a handful of views anyway because people weren’t impressed with all the 8-bit zombie shooters and Slender/Amnesia rip-offs coming out anymore.

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This last bit proved to be a bit of an issue because Rely on Horror eventually began paying its staff based on each 1000 views an upload got. While news pieces suggesting the next Resident Evil will have realistically rendered nose hair or whatever would easily score views ten times that minimum, most pieces on worthwhile indie games got about 200. To stay financially viable I began to craft out a new niche on the site and became the “anime guy” instead, with new, young talent taking my place on the indie throne. When that didn’t really work out and I got sick, I decided to call it quits and begin my own site instead. And guess what we spend two months a year dedicating all our time and passion to?

Indie games.

Stian and I both had a fantastic time working on all these reviews for indie games and especially this edition, which focused on lesser-known titles, really allowed us to dedicate a month’s worth of content to games we really wanted people to know about. These were also some really busy days because it takes about three to five days of work for a review to go from being written to being published. When Stian finishes a piece in our cloud storage I test-read it and leave corrections, which he then implements. I then copy his Word document to WordPress, edit the pictures he send me to fit our format, and add all the tags, categories, and other technical stuff to the piece. After one more session of test-reading the review goes live for you to enjoy. For indie month we put out a review every two days.

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And there is a reason for this beyond wanting there to be a tradition on the site. Every January and August we will be pumping out quality reviews for indie games because we don’t want to do these fantastic titles a disservice. If we just sometimes do indie games in-between our regular coverage, we are denying them the spotlight. We don’t want indie games to have to compete for our frontpage space with ZeldaRayman, and Ratchet & Clank. Not because we believe they don’t have the right to compare themselves to those big names, but because we dislike how those big names swallow up all the attention.

We hope you enjoyed this month. See you in August.

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