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What meant by _indie_ gaming?

Started by ephealy, May 02, 2001, 10:24:00 PM

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Ron and I had a page on the site last year talking about what _we_ meant by an indie game and indie gaming.  Without posting that here, I'd like to get your thoughts on it.

Some would say that indie means that the game is free.

Some would say it simply means it's small and not well known.

Others would say that indie means the creator owns the product and manages all parts of it's life.

Where do you stand on this?  When does a game stop being an indie game, never to come back again?  Can a game come back to indie status once it looses it?


I would say that an "indie" game is a creator-owned game, wherein the creator/developer has final approval for all devlopment and creation of that product.

Thus, "Orkworld" is an indie game, while "D&D" is not.  

I don't necessarily think it has to be free (it likely isn't), or even solely written/produced by the creator, so long as the creator owns the rights, and has final executive power over the game as a whole.

My definition may be a bit more broad than smoe of the other concepts, but that's how I see it.


Ron Edwards

This again.

I am jumping in on this, and to some extent - barring intelligent debate - the buck stops here.

As far as THE FORGE is concerned, independent = creator ownership. Thus the medium, commercial status, "in print" status, or ANYTHING else about the RPG is a separate issue.

That said, I'll bring up a side point. Another useful term is "grass-roots," meaning that the game is produced by role-players in the course of their own role-playing experience, and distributed from creator/practitioner to user/practitioner. In practical terms, that would mean that the RPG is not a formally-printed book - a PDF, perhaps, or a booklet printed at the photocopy shop, or whatever.

This is of course silly in some ways, as the idea of RPGs actually having an "industry" like music or comics is hilarious; the so-called "industry" is a dressed-up version of grassroots anyway. But as long as we're all pretending, and as long as some companies put together their games as IF they were going to be big ol' money-makers (power lunches! planned release of supplements! standup displays at GAMA booths!), then we at least have the semblance of a difference between grassroots and commercial/corporate RPGs.

To conclude and clarify,
- Independent, grassroots, and non-commercial: Eight, InSpectres, Ghost Light (and lots more in the Forge library)
- Independent, grassroots, and commercial: Elfs, Orbit, (formerly) Sorcerer
- Independent, book/marketed, and commercial: Hero Wars, Obsidian, FUDGE, Orkworld, (now) Sorcerer
- Non-independent, book/marketed, and commercial: provide your own examples (there's enough of them)


Clinton R. Nixon

Ron mentioned Fudge (it really is Fudge now instead of FUDGE--they had this whole name change issue) as an independent book-marketed game. This isn't really important, but--what is Fudge anyway (in terms of classification)?

The rights are owned by Steffan O'Sullivan.
It's printed by Grey Ghost Games with his permission, but they don't own it.
Anyone can publish (for free or for profit with permission) Fudge material.
You don't have to buy it from Grey Ghost--you can just download it.

It's a meme of some sort.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ron Edwards

Hey Clinton,

I know you know this, but just to clarify ...

What you're talking about is yet a third axis of classification - "open-sourcing" the property for OTHERS to profit from. I'm doing something similar with the Sorcerer mini-supplements, and of course there's the whole d20 thing (which is NOT a topic for the Forge, thanks very much).

Anyway, open-sourcing is not the same as signing away ownership, and it can be for an indie game (Fudge) or for a non-indie game (D&D3E).



Open-sourcing is a tool, or component, rather than a product.  Sorry, I fail to see Fudge as an actualy product, it's more like a raw material for production.

As for losing indie-status, then regaining it:  it's possible.  Elfs is an example.  Ron gave the rights away, then got 'em back.

The buck has stopped, and I feel adequately compensated for my dollar.


Jared A. Sorensen

Off topic: I want Elfs action figures!

On topic:  Anyway, to me, "indie" is synonymous with "punk" -- like in a film context (Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith).  So for me it's got less to do with the business side/ownership and more to do with the feel.

It's kinda like porn vs. erotica.  I know the difference when I see it.  Ya know?

- Jared
jared a. sorensen /


Just to throw in my own two cents;

To me, 'indie' means that the product is owned by the person (or persons) who created it.  Production and marketing may also be the domain of the indie-artist, but those are secondary to the ownership and ultimate control of the projekt itself (how it looks, is promoted, etc.)    

The 'owning and producing' part is the significant one, however. Because often when you are beholden to investors you are no longer independent of anything.  

Jeff Diamond


Ron Edwards

Quick clarification: Elfs' rights never left my hands. It was briefly contracted by a role-playing company to be printed in book form and to enter the book-publishing realm, but I would have continued to own it, and my profit was NOT a royalty, but a substantial chunk (60%) of the net.

Anyway, that didn't happen back in February, as planned, because the publisher simply backed out of the agreement, contract or not (they do that all the time, by the way; contracts only bind the creator). Topic for another War Story, some day.



New name;  Ron Thunder-thief


[ This Message was edited by: Dav on 2001-05-09 12:19 ]


I think it is up to the gaming community at large to determine what indie means. based on convention experience. I would say anything non-rpga ( the evil trust ) is part of the glorious cause of liberty. I also make the distinction between indy and grass roots grass roots is complete creator control,and indy id defined for me as something that is NOT distributed in non-specialist venues like walden books.
I also agree to some extent with Thee Mighty Punk Rock gamer.. Mr. Jared Sorensen, to a large extent, but feel we need a more terraced definition

death to the rpga - popo