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13 Apr 2015

Indie Developer Questions: Are You Still Indie If You Don’t Do Everything Yourself?

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There is still an odd misconception that if you do not develop every aspect of your indie game – from the art to the music to even the font in the game itself – then you are not truly an indie developer. It’s one of the most popular indie developer questions, and it makes sense why some new indie developers think this way, too. In their minds, a big part of being an indie developer is doing everything yourself. After all, the greats such as Sid Meier and Will Wright developed their first games by themselves, so why shouldn’t the indie developers of today learn to do everything themselves?

Because getting extra help on your indie game takes away nothing from the game that you develop.

Every time I hear this argument (and it is an argument you will find on countless indie forums and the like), I understand where the person is coming from. Many believe that if you have other people working on your game, then it isn’t truly ‘your game.’ Nothing could be further from the truth though. We live in an era in which hiring someone that is much more qualified to perform certain tasks then you are is as easy as writing an ad and hiring someone within the hour. This means that instead of having to teach yourself every little thing about game development, you can easily hire others to complete the tasks were your skills are lacking while staying on track and focusing on further developing your game.

Besides, if the greats such as Sid Meier and Will Wright had been able to hire other professionals to work on certain aspects of their first games as quickly as we can do today, then they would have jumped at the opportunity to do so. You are not sharing the limelight with others when you do this. The game is still your vision, it is still your game; the only thing you are doing is working smarter.

Still don’t believe me? Let me give you a little perspective on another industry that is booming just as much as indie gaming yet almost as identical: indie writing. New authors are finding that the best route for publishing their writings is to post them independently as e-books – usually on Amazon’s Kindle and the like. The vast majority of these authors have to do more than just write: they have to create a cover for their book, an icon that is displayed in search results, and an editor that will clean up their copy and offer suggestions on how to make the book even better. There is more that goes into publishing a written work – whether it is a short story, a novel, a textbook, etc. – than merely writing. Yet, I have never heard of an author make the argument that just because they had to hire other professionals help them to get their written work ready to sell, that means their written work doesn’t truly belong to them. The ideas, the story, the characters – everything about their book was written by them and no one else.

And you know something? The same holds true about your indie game. The gameplay, the characters, the levels, the design – everything about your game was created by you! To say that you are not truly an indie developer or your game doesn’t truly belong to you just because you hired experts to work on certain aspects of your indie game is ludicrous! It is literally the same as saying that authors that do not edit their own work (which is a bad idea in the first place) or design their own covers cannot claim that they created the written work in question; it is simply a false statement.

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