There was a time before the egregious marketing campaigns, the WrestleMania-like press conferences, and the South Park themed episodes when video games were viewed as a lower form of entertainment. In 2013 video games are everywhere, marketed as standing alongside movies and television as a major form of entertainment. With the eighth generation of video game consoles being released this year, it seems as if the three major entertainment platforms are becoming more closely linked together. Gamers can now watch movies, live stream television, and play with people from around the world with just their console or PC. As the companies that develop and market these systems make them commercial properties, the games as well have gone commercial.
The biggest and most commercial video games are marketed similarly to Hollywood movies; and like blockbusters, they rely on marketing campaigns and familiar brands to get gamers to spend their money on a $60 disk. 2013’s biggest game Grant Theft Auto V—the latest in game publisher Rockstar Games flagship franchise—has been reported as costing over $265 million dollars to develop and market; with a development team of more than 1,000 people. Major commercial video games like GTAV have become the norm, but like Hollywood, there is a smaller independent market as well.
Independent video game development has been going on since the beginning of electronic gaming. What separates independent games from the mainstream is that their market is filled with small developers that do not have the support of big game publishers. As video games have gotten much more attention in the media, the indie game market has expanded along with it. In the past couple of years games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez have blurred the lines between indie and mainstream as the small games became extremely popular and well received.
As the independent scene began to grow, the need to spread the word about it became apparent, and that is where IndieCade comes in. IndieCade is known to people in the industry as the “Sundance of videogames.” The IndieCade Festival takes place in Culver City, California and is currently the only stand-alone US festival dedicated to independent games. The festival, in collaboration with The Museum of The Moving Image here in New York City, is presenting a new exhibit showcasing more than two dozen independent video games. The show: Indie Essentials: 25 Must Play Video Games showcases some familiar independent games like Braid; Minecraft; and the 2013 IndieCade Festival Grand Jury winner Quadrilateral Cowboy (which will be officially released in 2014).
The exhibit, which opened to the public on December 14th and will be on view until March 2nd, is a gamer’s paradise. The exhibit features a diverse pool of video games that are all playable on the museum floor. Games like Spelunky and Alien Hominid pay homage to classic video games like Contra and Pitfall; while games like Flower and Dear Esther—a game that originally was a mod for Half-Life 2—challenge the status quo of gameplay and what actually constitutes a video game.
During the weekend of February 14th-16th 2014, the Museum will host IndieCade East: a non-competitive event offering games, panels and workshops all celebrating the games, and the developers who make up the indie video game market.