We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love, and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions.

This month we kick off our Roundtable series with a fantastic group of developers. Some you know well, some you may not and some are the stars of tomorrow. We’ve got Mike Bithell (Award winning creator of Thomas Was Alone), Charlie Nash (Up and coming teenage dev), Nicoll Hunt (The mind behind Time Travelling Lumberjack Punching a Bear in the Face Simulator Fist of Awesome), Tim Keenan (Half of the husband and wife team behind A Virus Named Tom), Katharine Neil (Creative force behind the darkly humoured adventure Alone in the Park) and Matt Kain Lewandowski (Part of the bearded brotherhood known as Team2Bit. Winners of IGN’s The Next Game Boss and developers of the upcoming beat ‘em up Fist Puncher).Simon Roth (Developer of the huge Kickstarter success Maia) also joins us toward the end of the Roundtable (I say toward the end as he was significantly delayed due to the wonders of public transport). 

If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier.

Laura Kate: Okay. Time to jump in with the super fun topic list 😀

Nicoll Hunt: I missed GDC especially for this chat

Mike Bithell: Ditto

Laura Kate: You all ready for this super taxing opening question?

“WHAT IS INDIE?”

Tim Keenan: Here we go…

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Being poor.

Nicoll Hunt: I like Terry Cavanagh’s answer: “I don’t care”

Charlie Nash: Indie is where you wear swaggy clothes and poorly edit pictures of you and your earstretcher

Mike Bithell: Indie is the act of someone making exactly what they want to make, without a boss, a publisher, or someone else with money telling them what to do. You also have to grow a beard (if male).

Matt Kain Lewandowski: The title is becoming less relevant, but I like to think of it as meaning you have the freedom to make the kind of game you want to make without worrying about pressure from a publisher, sponsor, committee, etc.

Nicoll Hunt: I think of it as being able to do what I like without any kind of money-men telling me I can’t do it for commerical reasons

Mike Bithell: *high fives Matt*

Nicoll Hunt: What Matt said

Mike Bithell: Wow. Unanimous answers

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Mike, did we share notes?

Mike Bithell: Charlie is too young to grow a beard, and is therefore not indie

Matt Kain Lewandowski: But poverty and a beard are also a big part of it too.

Charlie Nash: I am a pre-beard indie

Nicoll Hunt: Oh, yeah, definitely the beard thing

Nicoll Hunt: I’m wearing jumper because I can’t afford to heat my house. That’s a bit indie

Katharine Neil: It may be becoming less relevant because it’s becoming somewhat emptied of content. Which is unfortunate.

Mike Bithell: I got in trouble for saying the ‘pre beard indie’ thing.. because of the gender specificity.. which is fair

Charlie Nash: Girls can grow beards

Mike Bithell: @katherine.. you mean what’s in the game itself? The content of the game needs to be a certain way for your criteria?

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Ironically, the beard is sort of representative of the DIY, garage-band nature of indies. We’re not showing up to work at some stuffy cubicle job in a suit and tie. We grow fucking beards and wear track suits.

Staying Afloat

Tim Keenan: I think indie to me is also a motivational thing. I meet so many devs that claim to be indie that are approaching game making from a pure monitization standpoint and I think that goes against what I associate with “indie” as hippie dippy as that sounds.

Katharine Neil: Has anyone read “The Cooption of Cool” by Thomas Frank?

Mike Bithell: @tim it also usually fails..

Charlie Nash: Can’t get more indie than tracksuits

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Tim has a point. Making games for the sake of making art. Not for the sake of making money.

Charlie Nash: Agreed

Mike Bithell: I think making money is fair part of it though.. but it’s not about ‘getting rich’.. it’s about ‘buying freedom’

Tim Keenan: I mean we all need to eat and would love to be able to support ourselves making games so we could make even more games. But not at the cost of just making whatever will sell.

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Buying freedom! perfect.

Mike Bithell: @katharine that’s been on my must read list for aaaages

Nicoll Hunt: I think of making indie games in a similar way to being in a punk band. It’s doing something because you want to do it, not because you’re especially good at it, or you see it as a way of making money. Just doing something for the sheer love of making something and sharing it with other people.

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Nicoll Hunt’s “Fist of Awesome”

 

Katharine Neil: I mention it because 10 years ago things were very different.

Mike Bithell: like, for me.. I totally want a game I make to earn enough money to fund the next one, and I’m not embarassed by that

Katharine Neil: Some indies I’ve spoken too would like a clearer distinction made between “amateur” and “indie”

Nicoll Hunt: Yeah, I say that it’s not about making money, but I would love to be able to support myself through sales of my games alone

Tim Keenan: @mike: exactly. I also have a kid, mortgage & the like so I need to make money doing this or I’d have to do it in my spare time, which is really rough as well.

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Agreed. We all want to make enough money to feed ourselves, pay medical bills, take care of our family, but indies find a balance between that and making something and doing something they genuinely love.

Mike Bithell: yep

Charlie Nash: Perfectly said Matt

Mike Bithell: @katharine: the amateur / indie divide.. where is that?

[quote_right]”It’s not about ‘getting rich’.. it’s about ‘buying freedom’”[/quote_right]Matt Kain Lewandowski: I know Tim and I both came from jobs where we were making FAR more money than we are as indies. yet, for some reason, here we are.

Mike Bithell: I’m in the weird position of making more as indie.. which is very strange

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Mike, you lucky SOB.

Katharine Neil: Greg Costikyan once said something similar – describing it as the right for us to make “a decent middle class living” from independent development.

Mike Bithell: Yes. That

Katharine Neil: Yeah that’s awesome!

Tim Keenan: Yeah, I kinda liken it to that choice, it’s not that Matt and I were in the dumps and indie dev was an appealing option, it was a sacrifice that we had to make cuz we love making games

Nicoll Hunt: I’ve made progressively less money each year since I started making indie games. It’s not something I regret though.

Mike Bithell: I think this attitude is visible with the mega successful guys

Charlie Nash: I have made friends. Does that count?

Mike Bithell: Like, Notch has clearly decided that he’s made enough

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Over one year as a fulltime indie I made a fraction of what I made in one year doing biotech and medical research software. But I’m surviving and much, much happier.

Mike Bithell: And you work in a tracksuit

Katharine Neil: I think making friends who aren’t boring is priceless – so it counts a lot.

Matt Kain Lewandowski: I work in just my boxers.

Mike Bithell: sexy

Nicoll Hunt: I find being asked to do things like this and meeting like-minded people to be huge gains compared to working in a big company.

Mike Bithell: It is cool.. I do miss being constantly around other devs though (used to work in console / web game dev)

Nicoll Hunt: Yeah, I think my next project will hopefully involve getting a small team together.

The Advantages of Control

Matt Kain Lewandowski: Just having CONTROL over my TIME means everything to me. This afternoon I’m meeting up with a friend from Atlanta. later tonight I’m going to yoga. Being able to set my schedule and decide how to spend EVERY waking hour of my day means everything to me.

Mike Bithell: so cool, still getting used to that side of it

Tim Keenan: I quit making a good living making animated movies, and I liked the work and the people, etc. I just had to make my own games. I liken it to a good movie where the main character needs to be forced to make a difficult decision, no an easy one, so their choice shows who they are. I’m saying my life is a movie and Matt should play either me or Holly.

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Tim Keenan’s “A Virus Named Tom”

 

Nicoll Hunt: Making games by yourself is cool, but collaborations can raise the game of all involved.

Matt Kain Lewandowski: At my previous software job I probably had to hand over control of roughly 70 hours a week of my time to my company. That’s a whole big chunk of my life for someone else to control.

Mike Bithell: True

Matt Kain Lewandowski: I’m going to play David Rosen.

Nicoll Hunt: I find myself working crazy hours when I’m doing my own stuff

Mike Bithell: But yeah, I know I actively seek collaboration / game conversation in a way I didn’t before

Tim Keenan: @matt: He was highly influential in my indie-itude 😉

Charlie Nash: “Lifes what you make it, so lets make it rock” – Hannah Montana

Mike Bithell: I’m really lucky with the time thing, my gf is self employed too

Nicoll Hunt: Doing not-games-making stuff can make me feel guilty

Matt Kain Lewandowski: I think all indies work crazy hours, but it feels so much better when you’re in control.

Mike Bithell: YOU ARE SO YOUNG CHARLIE!

Laura Kate: @katharine, what was it like collaborating on Buddha Finger vs doing Alone in the Park by yourself?

Charlie Nash: Heh

Matt Kain Lewandowski: If I want to take a few hours off and go to the gym or take a nap, I just do it.

Mike Bithell: The point is, if we made zero pounds, it’d just be our hobby. Work ceases to be work, so of course we do crazy hours

Katharine Neil: @Laura Not too different. Though on buddha finger I was doing only narrative and music so it was way less time

Charlie Nash: Not really sure I have much to input into this question but it is great being able to do something I love that is also productive in my spare time

 

And there we have it, coming up next time we will be discussing “When is an Indie Game Successful”. What do you think? Is indie something defined by team size, budget, the mentality behind the game? Let us know your thoughts and join the conversation in the comments below.

  • We need to use words like Punk and DIY more-is Video Punk taken? But it’s too late to change the name of this website. Indie is a catchall meaning not beholden to X, be it whatever (I personally feel like you can’t be called indie if you cross over into non-indie territory, like using an IP of a non-indie entity, like the Game of Thrones game currently appearing on this website. That’s beyond any definition of indie)