Indie video games are what Bandcamp releases are to major music labels — a disruptor that allows for a more accessible market for smaller developers to release their games.
Big developers like Nintendo or Activision have long dominated the game development industry, but indie games are now on the rise after gamers have grown disenchanted by major studio releases not living up to hype, or relying too heavily on in-game purchases and expensive downloadable content.
It’s titles like the horror-survival game “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which are developed independently, that are giving rise to the indie game movement. The sequel to the game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location” was released last week.
As of Oct. 9 the game has received 1,609 reviews and a very positive rating overall on Steam, the web-based gaming platform that released the game. The “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise is just one series of games from indie video game developers to sweep the nation despite not being owned by large video game corporations such as Nintendo or Activision.
A large part of this may be due to the millennial generation's involvement with social media, and popular YouTubers such as PewDiePie and Markiplier promoting these games.
YouTube’s rewind of the year for 2015 even included a segment in the video dedicated to the rise of the popular “Five Nights at Freddy’s” franchise, showing popular YouTuber Markiplier receiving one of the classic jump-scares from the game’s animatronic characters.
Indie game creators have even subscribed to the channels of YouTubers who have created “Let’s Plays” for their games, or in YouTuber MatPat’s case, videos about fan theories based on popular indie games like “Undertale.”
“Undertale” follows the character Frisk, who falls down a hole and into a realm of monsters. From there, the player is able to explore the world, making a series of decisions that affect the outcome of the game.
The game made a large enough impression on MatPat, that upon meeting the Pope during an interview where he represented the YouTube community, he gave His Holiness a copy of “Undertale” as a gift.
In the video posted after the encounter, MatPat said he gave the game as a gift because it represents an evolution for gamers and what they expect from the games they play. The gesture did not go unnoticed by the creator of the game, Toby Fox, who mentioned the video on Twitter after it was posted.
“Apparently @MatPatGT met Pope Francis and gave him UNDERTALE as a symbolic gift. I'm honored,” read the tweet from Fox, posted on July 5.
Youtubers who choose to either play these indie games in their videos, or make videos discussing the games, have helped to create a new and exciting dynamic between creator and fan.
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“Undertale,” for example, was created as the result of a Kickstarter campaign, where it was described as “a traditional role-playing game where no one has to get hurt.” Based on this description, the game attracted 2,398 backers who pledged $51,124 to help bring the project to life.
The rising support for independent gaming companies has helped shape the growing industry in multiple ways. Fans are willing to provide much needed support to these small developers, who may not have the money or support from large gaming companies to make their games a reality.
It’s not just the fans who are interacting with the creators — more and more, the opposite is happening. Cawthon, for example, has personally commented on YouTube videos about his game “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” letting people know when their theories about the game come close to being accurate.
This helps break down the barrier between creator and fan, which has traditionally existed when it comes to popular franchises in gaming and other entertainment mediums.
On top of this, the promotion of indie games also helps gamers and fans take part in the creation of the games they love, by showing support for new and creative ideas that may not have had a chance to shine in large gaming companies, who are less likely to take a chance on a new idea.
Even after becoming a popular franchise, “Five Night’s at Freddy’s” continues to evolve and experiment with new elements that haven’t been tried before, such as the use of voice actors for the animatronic villains in “Sister Location.”
From YouTube to social media to indie game developers, millennials are beginning to make serious waves in the entertainment industry, and are beginning to break down the wall between creator and consumer.
As MatPat said in one of his YouTube videos: “It’s up to us to to educate the world about the good works of gaming. We can’t wait for other people to do it, because no one will ever deliver those lessons for us. We are in charge of our own destiny — we shape our story.”
Nichole Harwood is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.