System mastery matters

No matter how many “no prep” games and supplements I see, system mastery matters. I’ll even go so far as to say that there is no such thing as no-prep gaming. The very idea is marketing more than anything else. There can be aids that cut down on prep time to an absolute minimum, but there’s no way around prepping material. Are there exceptions, sure. I’ll get to those later, but they don’t count the way it might be expected.

Now, I’ve seen people argue that this is no longer the case, that games don’t have to require loads of prep. There can be games people just sit down and play. Sort of. Someone at least needs to read the rules first. This is even true of board games. So yeah, no prep? I think that’s a bunch of nonsense, especially for the people running the games. If someone isn’t familiar with the system, then managing a game session is next to impossible. Full stop, there’s no way around this. No amount of charts, tables, sidebars, or what have you can make up the difference.

Let’s take a moment to explore this further. What is system mastery? Is it necessary that a person has the game memorized? No. Although I’ve definitely played in games where people knew the manuals almost by heart. What system mastery really means, at least to me, is that the person understands how the game as a unified whole is expected to function. It isn’t required to have every rule-as-written committed to memory. What is needed is an understanding of how the rules play off of one another to make the game being played the unique experience it is supposed to be.

A core piece of advice in almost every gaming supplement is that the GM know the material prior to bringing it to the table. This is an essential component of running a published adventure. The GM has to read it first. As stated above, this is true of board games as well. Otherwise, the adventure would be unplayable. I’ve tried to cut corners with this, and it hasn’t gone well. A lot of time was wasted, and the game dragged on far more than was necessary. I was lucky to have patient players that let me stumble my way through these early attempts at running sessions, but I learned a valuable lesson by being bad at my role. Prep is core to gaming, and there is no way around that fact.

There are exceptions to this. From the player side, it isn’t necessary to know the game. It’s entirely possible to sit through a session as a player and simply work through a game’s mechanics when prompted. “You should roll a saving throw here.” or “This would be a good time to use the ______ skill.” Just a couple of examples, but these experiences are fairly common. In fact, this probably how most people learn their way through any game. Someone that confidently knows the system will walk a new player through the material. It was like this for all of us, but the need for at least one person to understand the game was clear. System mastery, again.

The other exception would be GM-less games. Some games exist as their own rules system, doubling as the Game Master, as well as the rule book. Games like these have really grown in popularity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With all of the health and safety regulations from around the world it became more difficult to bring a group of people together. Hence the rise in solo RPGs. As the player, the person working their way through the game simply follows the prompts in the rules, and then responds accordingly. However, groups of players can work their way through a GM-less game. Fiasco anyone?

At this point someone reading might be saying to themselves, “What a load of garbage. I’ve been running Basic D&D since I was a kid, and I could definitely run multiple game sessions without prep, let alone one.” This is probably true, but the veteran gamer’s ability to do this rests on their mastery of the system. If someone has that much experience with a particular game then their mastery of it allows for that improvisational ability. As an aside, I’m a bit envious of people that have this depth of knowledge that allows for this kind of gaming.

Anyone who has ventured behind the screen to run a session or two will hopefully be nodding their heads in approval by now. I cannot fathom how anyone could realistically think they could show up at a game without prepping. From the player side it’s possible, but even then it makes things more difficult. Despite what people have said about being able to cut corners with dungeon design, random encounters, or whatever, it is vital that the person running the game knows the system well. Imagine if this was put into play, “Hey, I have this game. Let’s play it.” Players look at other person that brought the game ask, “OK, how?” Gleefully, the game’s owner responds, “I don’t know. Let’s play it anyway.” This is a recipe for disaster, albeit one that could be enjoyable and memorable. Fun can be had by stumbling through a rule book, to be sure, but it will likely be a more efficient experience if the GM has learned the game. Learn from my mistakes, take the time to prep.

Final Fantasy 6 (Boss Fight Books), a review

There probably isn’t a series of games that has ever captured my imagination quite like the Final Fantasy series. I have sat and played most of the games, although I have admittedly not touched the MMOs. They are well-conceived games and merit discussion in their own right, but for me, and I suspect many others, the sixth entry into the series stands apart.

My reverence for this particular game brought me to pick up Final Fantasy 6 from publisher Boss Fight Books. The book is a critical analysis of the game, most specifically, its music, and by extension celebrated composer, Nobuo Uematsu. And that music is iconic. I’d even go so far as to argue that most nerds would recognize “Prelude” from the Final Fantasy series of games since it has become a staple of the franchise’s soundtracks.

Most fans will debate which entry into the series is the best, with many people taking sides in favour of the sixth or the seventh game. Regardless of whatever acrimony there might appear in this respect, just about everyone agrees that the music is always top-notch in every single iteration of Final Fantasy. I would place myself among these people, and the first video game soundtrack I made a point to own in physical form was Final Fantasy 6. Obviously, it’s I have a deep affection for this game, even if it might be tempered by nostalgia at this point. Uematsu himself is highly respected for his body of work, similar to how John Williams is held in high regard for his film scores. Deken takes issue with this comparison in his examination. (After considering his approach that Uematsu and Williams are not really a good comparison, I concede that he makes a strong case.

FF6 came out almost 30 years ago. Being in North America, I was only able to play the first and fourth games in the series, or FF1 and FF2 as they were known in my corner of the globe. I loved them both and was anticipating FF6 when news broke that the game was finally coming. I don’t recall purchasing it as a ‘Day One’ release, but I definitely didn’t wait long to add it to my collection. Once I had it in my hot little hands, I was not disappointed. It was and is a masterpiece.

Neither was I disappointed with the book that reviewed the game’s legacy. People can say whatever they want about the game’s place in history, for a long time it was the benchmark that every other RPG was measured against. The game’s music helped make that possible.

As author Sebastian Deken discusses, the game took some interesting turns by incorporating an expansive soundtrack. It was on three CDs! Each character has their own song and the game makes expert use of them. Not only that, but the composition itself is ambitious and wildly varied. I’ll leave the formal critique to Deken because he was extremely adept at it, but I found myself agreeing with a lot of his assessments.

The book does a great job of discussing ideas about why the music from FF6 worked so well, and how it differed from its predecessors. One point that I thought was also interesting was the infamous opera scene. This had to be in this book, and Deken’s take on it was very thoughtful. It worked in the game in a way that fit the game, beautifully, but, as he points out, it only truly works in the game. This is obviously a bit of a flaw, but something that didn’t really make a difference to anyone helping Celes sing her part. At the end of the day, the limitations of the hardware didn’t matter. The opera scene fit the game. It doesn’t need to be recreated in the real world because it was written for the game.

One of the problems of this book though is that it doesn’t treat the game as a whole. It really only addresses the music, and so aspects of the game that really stood out, both for good and bad reasons, weren’t really investigated as much as they could have been. Could there be another book-length critique of FF6? Sure. Should there be? That’s a good question. Perhaps Boss Fight would consider authorizing another foray into FF6 legacy, but Deken’s book stands well on its own, even if it’s a bit limited in its scope.

Ultima-atley, this book was great. I felt like I was reading an easily digestible academic thesis. Yes, it could have been longer and covered more ground, but what’s available is perfectly substantive. At no point was this book ever pandering, or petty. Rather, it is intelligent, insightful, and frankly, a must-read for anyone that is a fan of the Final Fantasy games, especially FF6. This was my first time reading one of Boss Fight’s books, and I’m impressed enough that it almost certainly won’t be the last time I purchase something from this publisher.

The Artefact (part 2)

*Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the organizations named in this review, nor have I received any form of compensation. I paid for my copy of the game through the original Kickstarter.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed a beta version of a solo RPG titled, The Artefact. (The link for that review is here.) This follow-up review is late. My apologies, especially to the game’s author if they were hoping for a more timely treatment of the final product. Unfortunately, this is something I’ve been putting off for a while. Fortunately, the game being discussed isn’t impacted by the tardiness of my updated examination of the final version of the game. For anyone that might be unfamiliar with The Artefact, the idea is that an individual player will write a story from the perspective of an inanimate object. The game is a short, zine-style RPG that is available in both digital and physical formats.

When I first played through the game in the beta version, my impression was that the game was more of a creative writing exercise than anything else. There was a wide variety of artifacts, as well as some interesting prompts to kickstart the writing process. When I ran through the game, I was left with a unique item that had a relatively complete story about its existence. I was happy with the result and wanted to find a game I plug my item into.

Where that original run-through of the game faltered was, I believe, at least partially, the result of its incomplete status. It was the beta version, but it had no end. I arrived at the “end” of the game, and there was no resolution. I had simply run out of game to play, as there were no more pages in the book.

The final iteration of the game, which can be purchased here, is a significant improvement over the beta version. The game does now have a resolution. Using the charts, the object that lies at the heart of the story will probably have a different life span for each play of the game. Once that lifespan has run its course, the game ends. While the object in question may linger on, the story terminates with the object being lost, damaged, forgotten, or what have you. Yet, the object created had a life, regardless of how that span plays out.

My main takeaway after playing through this game, both the final version and the beta, is that I had something that I could drop into a TTRPG with no issue. If nothing else, The Artefact is a worthwhile tool for creating compelling content for other games. So much so that it was included in the Bundle of Holding for Novel Writing Tools that corresponds to the annual “National November Writing Month”, aka NaNoWriMo. (At the time this article was written there were 14 days left to purchase the bundle.)

I enjoyed creating a timeline for my artifact, a shield to be specific, and got to build out a meaningful tale around it. In this story, the game ended with the shield having been locked away in a vault for safe keeping, and ultimately was forgotten, along with everything else it was stored with. A fitting ending for a revered item, but one that leaves room for the story to grow. Perhaps adventurers stumble onto this vault, discover the shield, and then are able to piece together its history. It would be a compelling game in and of itself to do that kind of sleuthing, and it’s easy to see how using something like The Artefact could significantly add depth to a regular game.

What’s more, it can be a way to circumvent writer’s block since all the player needs to do is respond to prompts, rather can concoct the story from their own imagination. After I played it, I was left with pages of a compelling story (2,118 words to be exact) that worked as much of an explanation of my shield, as it did to articulate the world the shield was a part of. If I wanted to explore all of this further I’d be able to develop a sort of archaeological approach to worldbuilding that could be very fruitful.

None of this is to say that everyone needs to play this game. It’s purely optional, and really only suggested for those that enjoy writing these kinds of backstories. There are lots of gamers that prefer things be kept as simple as possible. A few lines or a couple of short paragraphs are all that some people require for their own games, and that’s fine. If you’re one of these people, then The Artefact, and games like it probably aren’t for you. However, if you enjoy writing, then I would suggest you consider picking this game up. It’s a short, affordable, and infinitely re-playable solo game that can be an excellent complement to creative writing, as well as numerous TTRPGs.

In Filth it Shall be Found, a review

*I originally posted a short verision of this on Goodreads, but didn’t feel that I had properly done my opinion justice. The publisher’s site is here.

Transgressive fiction is pretty niche, and this book embraces that. This isn’t to say that the stories aren’t varied, they are. There’s a great range of talent from authors that I wasn’t familiar with at all, as well as a mix of genres. When I saw this anthology pop up on Kickstarter I was intrigued enough to back it. Let me just say that, if hindsight is 20/20, then I am on occasion, a genius. This is a quality anthology.

Each author’s contribution did what it was supposed to do, challenge the reader’s perspective by presenting people who articulated themselves in ways that are generally not, shall we say, expected. There were people who were down and out, criminals, scumbags, victims, and so on. As I said, there was a great range presented in this collection. There are a couple of authors whose works I’m going to explore further after reading their stories. That’s a success as far as short story collections are concerned.

One example of a standout I particularly enjoyed Isaac and Me by Don Logan. The story started out with a guy killing his wife, only to end up living on the streets. When he befriends a male prostitute, his life takes a turn for the better. However, the book’s conclusion was a great surprise, and this was an excellent psychological thriller. I’ve shortlisted this author for the sake of checking out other things they may have written.

There were other stories that rubbed homicide and mental illness in the readers faces, as if the author wanted mash the audiences nose in shit. Some of the stories were, in a word, ‘abrasive’. This was the point though. Figure out where the line is in respectable daily life, and intentionally cross over it so as to linger in the shadows where less pleasant things are concelaed.

Other reviews have pointed out that there is a fairly mixed group of authors, and this is also a positive. It’s one thing to have a range of content, but it’s refreshing to see that equal attention was probably paid to content creators. Fiction as a whole benefits from this. There are too may perspectives to leave people out, intentionally or not.

Where the book faltered was that I didn’t feel like my assumptions of proper conduct in society were challenged enough. It’s one thing to show people acting in ways that might not meet our expectations, but that’s not enough. There needs to be a contrast of where the actions deviate away from what’s regarded as normal. Here and there, yes, that sort of juxtaposition is present in small quantities. Yet, more often than not I had the impression that the authors were trying to toe the line of what would be considered “shocking” to the average reader, but that was enough on it’s own.

In a way that’s a success because there are a couple of stories that made me feel a bit dirty after enjoying them. The problem was that I expected to have the conventions of the world around me challenged by the characters in the story. People needed to break free from the confines of polite society, and there wasn’t enough of clear break present in a lot of the stories. A lot of the characters were just varying shades of deplorable. Unfortunately, despite the quality of the book, I had wanted a bit more in this respect. Trangressive fiction shines brightest when that sort of divergence is central to a narrative’s architecture. Otherwise, it just ends up being people trying to upset the squares, which can be a bit tedious after a while. At least in my opinion.

As an anthology, this book scratched an itch. It’s a strain of storytelling that isn’t on most people’s lists, but it has its place. Don’t be fooled either, this stuff is dark. It isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that does enjoy having their limits tested, then this book is for you. The selections within miss the mark occasionally, but not one of them was poor quality. I genuinely enjoyed this book from start to finish, even if it was sometimes a little hard to read them all. Ultimately, a job well done by Outcast Press.

It’s NaNoWriMo time again!

Good luck to everyone participating. I’m not. This isn’t some holier-than-thou statement. I just don’t have much time to dedicate to NaNothis year. However, I am running an experiment. I’m doing a NaNo’s worth of non-fiction writing. By most counts, I’m probably like 5,000 words behind my target, but whatever.

The content I create this month has incorporated many of the ideas required for a NaNo project. I have been planning out my articles. It helps to create a road map, and this is a new kind of project for me. I’ve never tried to generate articles or non-fiction like this before.

Everything I create is going to end up as an article on this site. Earlier in the year, I’d set a goal for myself to see if I could average a visitors day, and create content for an entire year; essentially, 52 posts from January to February. My NaNo experiment is a means to finalize content for the remainder of the year.

So far, I’ve prepared about 1500 words. That means that I am far behind my target. A couple of paragraphs up, I said about 5,000 words. In order to keep up with NaNo’s pace, it requires something like 1700 words a day to maintain a word count that will complete the project. After six days, which is when I was writing this article, I should have about 10,200 words. That means that with the 1500 words I have written I’m behind approximately 8700.

Since I aim for my articles to be about 500 words each, give or take, then I’m behind by about 17(!) articles. Clearly, I have some catching up to do. Will I be able to do it? No idea. At the end of the day, I just wanted to try and keep pace, but not write a novel.

I would love to write an entire book of non-fiction, and this is an initial foray into seeing that project become reality. Gaming as a hobby has had a relatively short history, all things considered. There have been countless articles about the hobby, and all of it combined feels as if it were only just scratching the surface. My NaNo experiment will build on all of that, and take its place among all those other voices.

GenCon, a first and a last time (probably)

This year, I went to Gen Con for the first time. It will probably be the only time I ever get to go, but I’m not sure I’d make it a point to go back. (I’ll explain below.) This was on my bucket list of things to do, and I did it. One down, only 1,965,097 to go.

My first impression as a first-timer was shock at how many people actually turned out. In gaming circles, it always feels like you exist in a dark shadowy corner of the world that only a handful of others know about. Bringing people together at a convention dispels that, and it’s a positive, empowering feeling. This is especially true because gaming has historically been such a maligned hobby. We all know we’re out there, scattered around the globe, but seeing tens of thousands of us all in one place is very affirming.

For my part, I could only go for one day. I loved being there, and the scale of the event was a complete surprise. There was more available to experience than I could have possibly fit into a single weekend, let alone the one day that I had. This isn’t to complain at all. It was great. It isn’t often I’m in an environment that has so many people that were interested in the same stuff as me. It’s really eye-opening.

What’s more, I was able to meet people who have created products I love playing. Shockingly for me, I met Rob Heinsoo. I’m a bit ambivalent about 4th Edition D&D, but I love Pelgrane Press’s 13th Age. If you like fantasy role-playing games and haven’t played it, I would strongly suggest checking that game out.

The downside that I saw in Gen Con was on the logistical side. It’s cool to have so much, but being there is soooo expensive. The idea that attending Gen Con would be 1,000 or more is entirely possible if someone went all four days. That’s a lot of money. I can’t afford it, and I’m willing to bet that a lot of other people can’t afford it. Then there’s the location.

Gen Con is in Indiana every year. It could move. It was something I kept thinking about while I was there. “Why can’t Gen Con be set in different cities? Or maybe, why can’t there be two Gen Cons? One in Indianapolis, and one in some other city. The other city could then be changed from year to year.

These are just thoughts and ruminations, but at the end of the day, I’m glad I went. It was a good time. Despite, my complaints, I’d love to go again, but I probably won’t. The cost alone means it’s not likely. It’s hard to justify spending that much money on the convention, let alone just four days(!), and I know that there are other conventions closer to where I live. Still, as the gaming convention in North America, it was a positive experience and I would encourage others to go if they’re able.

Blood for money: Sucking the life from cherished stories

Years ago Disney bought Marvel. They also bought Star Wars. They’ve also bought a bunch of other companies. In those acquisitions, Disney managed to purchase the legal rights to a significant portion of my childhood entertainment. A lot was said about what this all meant, and why it was significant. I was a bit worried that Disney was about to ruin things that had nurtured my young geeky self.

So far, it hasn’t gone exactly as I’d predicted. Disney is pumping tons of money into creating content out of the various intellectual properties it has acquired. There are news Star Wars films and TV shows exclusive to Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+. There is an entire magazine racks worth of superhero movies. There are TV shows as well featuring well-known, but less iconic characters. There’s even more (new Predator comics?!), but the point is made. Once these properties were brought under the Disney umbrella, content has been created in a manner that only be described as torrential.

My initial thoughts on all of this were that Disney was basically going to suck the life from these IPs for as much profit as possible, and then discard the lifeless husks of once beloved franchises. This could still happen, but it hasn’t yet. The result is actually a bit different than I’d imagined it.

Rather than merely recreating content, Disney is saturating, over-saturating if we’re being honest, the media landscape with stories derived from these acquisitions. In the days of yesteryear, something like The Mandalorian could have been a series of novels. It would have fit perfectly. I truly did not believe that Disney would make any effort to create new and original stories, and I was wrong. In a way that’s refreshing. I’m happy that there are attempts to keep these franchises new and fun. We’ll see what happens with movies adapted from Marvel’s comics. Now that the Infinity Stones have been dealt with, it’ll be interesting to see what’s next.

Where I do see two problems are with the content that is being created. The first issue is that there’s too much of it. Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, Disney bought up Star Wars, or to be more specific, Lucasfilm. Those companies became a part of Disney 10 and 13 years ago. In that time, and I referred to Wikipedia, there have been 27(!) movies released in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU). There have also been five Star Wars movies. I haven’t even included TV shows for either Marvel or Star Wars.

That’s 32 movies in 13 years for anyone and counting. Incredibly, there’s more stuff on the way! I consider myself a grade-A geek, but this is too much. A crush of content like that simply drowns the entertainment landscape. This is probably what led to criticism of superhero movies by people like Martin Scorcese. People eventually look away because the flood of content is overwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, I love decent superhero movies. I grew up on Marvel comics. Seeing these franchises made into movies that don’t suck is a breath of fresh air in the dank basement corner of nerd-dom.

The other part of this criticism comes from the sense that some of the movies and shows end up feeling like they’ve been created using a somewhat rigid formula. Again, refer to criticism like that of Scorcese. I don’t agree that superhero movies aren’t cinema, but like with literature, applying a formula to content creation can be stifling and boring. What’s created is predictable and ultimately, less good.

Time will tell, as with all things, but Disney’s takeover of youth-oriented media is extreme. While the company has done a great job at creating fresh stories, there’s ample argument to be made against the volume of content. It’s suffocating, and maybe not as innovative as it could always be. It makes money though, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing Disney cares about.

Brilliant actors reading a classic poem

Halloween is just around the corner, and there is no time like the present to dig into the public domain archives to see what we can find. One of my personal favourites is Edgar Allan Poe. His stories and poetry strike the perfect chord this time of year.

Yet, to truly do them justice, it takes a professional. What is probably one of Poe’s most famous poems is The Raven, and it captures so much of what made Poe a fantastic author. For full effect, consider having a listen to the versions read by actors Christopher Lee or Vincent Price.

Both actors were known for their distinct voices. Lee’s deep booming voice carried him through his eclectic career, and it is a fantastic accompaniment to The Raven. He casts a wonderfully serious and sombre tone for the poem, and his reading works extremely well to bring the text to life.

Alternatively, there is another version by Vincent Price. Most of Price’s acting career was in horror, specifically lower-budget horror movies. Over the decades, he became an icon of the genre. His voice possesses a distinctly creepy tone which contributes strongly to the atmosphere of the poem. Personally, I think Poe would have been proud, and I have a slight preference for Price’s reading.

For anyone that would like to read the poem on its own, it can be found here, and in many other places. (Check your library!)

On being sick and taking a break

This site went silent for a couple weeks, but for a particular reason. I had Covid-19. While I took some time to recover, I set aside many projects, and Pulp Culture Museum was one of them.

Generally, I work under the assumption that people fetishize workaholism. Do stuff constantly, without stopping. Extreme productivity as a goal. If we haven’t crammed every second of our waking hours with completing as many tasks as possible, and those tasks that are judged as meaningful by our peers, then we have failed. Or something like that. I hate this perspective.

When I was sick I kept thinking about all the stuff I wanted to be getting done but wasn’t doing. It made me feel worse, so I decided I needed to stop everything. I’d be better off just letting myself be ill, letting the virus run its course, and stepping away from the hustle and bustle for a bit.

I don’t regret that choice at all. I planned no posts for a couple of weeks and gave myself a break. It was a little hard because I really enjoy writing. That’s actually a big part of why I set this site up in the first place; it’s an avenue to let out some of my creative impulses that aren’t fiction. However, I resent being bothered that I wasn’t getting anything done. When someone is sick, this is the kind of thought that shouldn’t be on their mind at all. I’m probably repeating myself in this short post, but it’s a sentiment that I believe bears repeating.

Our work culture, and within society at large, has a sickness of its own. People need to be able to step away from their busy lives from time to time. There is no rational reason why people should have to feel guilt or shame if they need a break, as I did when I had Covid. Yet, somehow we do. It’s a problem, but one I don’t mind confronting. I hope others will stand with me.

What does “indie” mean for gaming?

Calling a game “indie” has certain connotations, but what does indie really mean? This thought came to me the other day when I was reading through a conversation on a message board about what people’s preferred games were. I kept on seeing people who said they liked “indie” games and started wondering, what is an indie game?

It’s probably useful to consider context. Video games, for example, have a different scale when it comes to the sizes of the organizations that produce them. Don’t believe me, then just look up the credits for the people that create games. Lots and lots of people create games, and in a capacity akin to filmmaking. Revenues are often tallied in 10s of millions of dollars. The world of tabletop gaming is much smaller, and by all measures.

Therefore, indie in video games will probably fit what I suspect is the definition of the term in the popular imagination. Connotations for indie are generally assumed to be a small organization, and team, of people operating their own little entity that produces games. There are no shareholders to appease, and it is likely the that games produced, as well as the company itself are relatively small organizations. This is where indie lives up to the term it is an abbreviation of, independent. In this case, independent of corporate influence.

When it comes to the world of tabletop games, the concept of indie is less obvious. For all intents and purposes, I’d estimate that 99% of the tabletop industry qualifies as being “indie”. (I have no official stats to back this up.)This makes the term almost meaningless for tabletop games because it can be applied to pretty much everyone. What would be the exception were publishers that didn’t qualify as indie. Yet, the term persists, and I’m not always clear on what it is supposed to mean.

Some ideas that could be applied would have to be assumptions that the number of people involved in the production of a product (game or supplement) would probably be fairly small. Additionally, the associated revenues of the products are probably small as well. It would also be presumable that the audience for those products is proportionally small as well. The repeated term “small” is relative, but tabletop gaming, especially role-playing games, is a niche hobby. If we apply the admittedly vague criteria above, then indie games are essentially a niche within a niche. So, very small.

Ultimately, the sticking point for me is that games shouldn’t be described as an indie. There needs to be a different term because indie is largely meaningless. While it is possible to infer meaning when the term indie is used, it isn’t a clearly defined concept.

There’s one other dimension to this, marketing. Calling a game “indie” brings with it connotations of its own, often about attitude. Indie games can buck corporate directives, which is positive, but it’s the concept of “cool” that also is associated with “indie”. Those small companies and products are given different considerations and have different expectations of them. These can be dubious associations, but they are just as prevalent as any other idea lumped into the definition of “indie”.

Nothing really needs to change in the industries I touched on here, at least as far as operations are concerned. What would be nice is perhaps a different approach to discussing organizations of different sizes. Indie is a catch all term that people assume has more meaning than it actually in fact does. We need some new semantics in gaming. While I’m all for supporting smaller creators, I think it’s time to think up a new vernacular for having those conversations.