I didn’t get a lot of time to think about the future of Indie Haven when Erin Hyles and myself stepped into the leadership role of this site.  I didn’t have a lot of opinions about what made Indie Haven special or why people should choose our site over others.  Laura Kate is the name that is most often associated with our site and her work has been incredible.  We at Indie Haven owe her a lot, and she built an impressive machine driven by her commitment, connections, and vision.  Whatever Indie Haven was when I came aboard, it was Laura’s.

It’s humbling, taking over something that someone has worked so tirelessly to create.  Indie Haven wasn’t unheard of, nor was it a site that struggled to prove its relevancy.  It had already established a history and an audience, however niche it may be.  As someone who has written for a few sites in my day, and seen how difficult it is to accomplish these tasks, what Indie Haven has accomplished is impressive.  So when I first started working as an editor, my one goal was to not fuck it up, to not derail what others had worked so hard to build.

But the time has come for Indie Haven to change.  While I have to tip my hat to the years of work establishing Indie Haven as a source of news, reviews, and  podcasting focused around the indie world, we have come to a point where we can no longer keep up that kind of journalism.  Our staff has shrunk since I took over.  We’ve become more burdened by the pressures of real-world life that so often gets in the way of passion.  So we’re just not able to produce the volume of content needed to cover all news, reviews, ect.  But the world of indie games has also changed.  Whereas the indie market might have once gone unrecognized, these days the IGNs, Polygons, and Kotakus of the world are publishing indie news, championing kickstarters, and reviewing small games with an interest that didn’t exist a few years ago.  Indie Haven can’t compete with these sites in the journalism rat race.  We don’t have the manpower or the funds for that.

This led to a decision I made, in agreement with the writers, to shift our focus away from news and reviews.  And I really couldn’t be happier.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of sites that are happy to plug away news articles day after day, keeping you abreast of the latest DLC, release dates, and price announcements that keeps Twitter flush with opinions.  There are also plenty of sites who are going to pump out their own reviews of a game within the first few weeks, shouting their opinion into the din of the internet.  Trying to hold our own when it comes to news and reviews doesn’t interest me anymore, it doesn’t seem to interest our writers, and I don’t think there’s a need for us to do it.

I believe video games are more than the anticipation of news and reviews.  I think that there are more interesting questions to ask about games rather than the simple: When does it come out?  How much does it cost?  Is it “good”?

I think that writing about games means going beyond five paragraphs that summarize a game’s worth.  I think that we can write more interesting criticism that looks beyond good or bad and gets to the heart of what is really interesting about games.  I’ve started asking the writers at Indie Haven to explain why games connect to them, and I’d ask you, the audience, to do the same.  Why games?  Why does it have to be games?  We could turn Indie Haven into a site about the latest in indie film, we could cover the latest and greatest of amateur sports, or cover independent underwater basket-weaving (doesn’t that sound dope?).  So why do we write about games?  Why do we like games?  While large swaths of society have told us to give up playing, and that games are for kids, we have collectively shouted them down.  Are we all just Peter Pan-ing our way through life?  Are we just the embodiment of Oprah’s man-child moniker?  Or is there something meaningful in this medium worth discussing?

I think games are special.  I think they allow us to connect to walks of life we would never know otherwise.  Sometimes that means grand adventures through epic worlds, but sometimes it means the mundane, everyday stuff.  I think video games are the only medium that allow us to take the road we want to travel, to shrug off the narrow-minded concepts of narrative from other mediums and give control to its audience.  Games are weird, they’re frustrating, they’re joyous, and they’re all their own.  I write about games because they’re the only medium where I truly felt at home.  Where I never felt like I had to fit in.

I’m hoping that here at Indie Haven we can write articles that challenge the way we think about games and the surrounding culture.  I want us to write pieces that reflect on games rather than trying to assign value to them.  I want us to write articles about why games speak to us, why they get under our skin, why we can’t stop playing them.  I don’t want the conversation to end with “good” or “bad”, I want the conversation to start with a larger vocabulary and more interesting ideas.  I’m challenging the writers at Indie Haven to explore games in a deeper, and more interesting way, and I hope you’ll join us.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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  • As someone who currently freelances for gaming websites, I know how frustrating it can get pouring everything into a review pretty much knowing it will get lost among the hundreds of others. I think this is a very brave, clever and necessary move for a lot of sites – so it’s great to see indieHAVEN make that change. Lately, I’ve been delving deeper into gaming culture and interviewing people who are relevant to it – it’s amazing how much more interesting/exciting/fun to write it has made my work – I’m sure you guys will see the same benefits!

    • Josh Hinke

      Thanks for the support, Jay! We’re excited too.

  • PanurgeJr

    I look forward to your future work. Gaming needs criticism.

  • It would require some discipline, however I’ve always felt like the best angle for this site would be to focus singularly on introducing unestablished voices, not getting media attention elsewhere: which would require an embedded, investigative journalism model; and even more challenging, there is not enough coverage of tools and resources for artists, to help find their bearings, but also there needs to be a great demystification of this medium for it to grow into something that is not a debasement of art–and there is too much squee-excitement about the games, and not what is actually much more important–the tools used to make them, and the communities surrounding those tools. There is an unhealthy focus on the final product, that overshadows the process of how it is made, to the medium’s great loss, with each passing day.

  • VidYo

    Interesting post, hopefully we’ll see IndieHaven change into something even better!

    A couple of people have already said it but I think the trick is to find stuff people aren’t writing about. I guess it’s always tempting to want to write a review of the latest hyped indie game but at the end of the day it’s not going to make much difference given the proliferation of big name websites covering the same material.

    Maybe more focus could go on being more personal and expressive. I always enjoy reading a strong personal point. Also, VIDEOS! Videos really feel like the last bastion of personal blogging these days. Plus, you can turn any written piece into a video quite easily.

    And I don’t think necessarily think you should cover articles in more words, if that’s what you mean. I think that’s a mistake I’ve seen a few websites make and, to be honest, anything over 1000 words has to be VERY good to want to read it the whole way through. There’s an art to the laconic article.

    • I think they should write digests of their podcast like content. I cannot be bothered to listen to it or watch it, but I would read/skim it. And maybe if there was time markers embedded in the digest I’d jump to that part of the video/podcast.

      I think it’s wrong to assume people will dedicate lots of time to things like video games. At the end of the day video games are not important enough to spend time watching video game related media coverage; and they shouldn’t be. Let’s be self aware.

      I just feel like I’m probably missing out on about half of the fruit that comes out of this website, because it’s in a format that I cannot responsibly partake in.