It’s hard to tell when you only look at the mainstream coverage, but video games are a vast, all-encompassing medium. No matter who you are or how you live, chances are good that there’s a game out there tailored to your sensibilities. To take that even further, chances are good that said game can be found on Free Indie Games. Run by Terry Cavanagh (Super Hexagon), Porpentine, and a few other indie enthusiasts, the site aims to highlight the best under-the-radar indie games on the market.
Cavanagh and Porpentine gave a talk about the site during the first day of GDC 2013. Titled “Free Indie Games: Curating the DIY Revolution,” the duo discussed the booming—and sadly oft-ignored—indie development scene, as well as the role journalists could potentially have in popularizing it.
“Journalists don’t have the same goals as game developers,” Cavanagh said. In his opinion, the press has a more vested interest in telling a story than they do spreading the word about good games. I wanted to disagree, but when Cavanagh and Porpentine shifted the talk to various examples of indie games that have shown up on Free Indie Games, I’d heard of just one.
First up was Lim, a game about the struggles of the transgender experience. It’s fairly simple from a visual and mechanical standpoint – all the characters are cubes – but that doesn’t weaken the game’s message in the slightest. Players assume the role of a cube that’s colored differently from all the other cubes in the world. When they hold down Z, their cube becomes the same color as all the rest, but its movement is slowed. If you aren’t holding down Z, the other cubes gang up on you. “Lim is about feeling erased and attacked,” creator Merritt Kopas said in a recent interview.
There was also a discussion of games created by teenagers, such as Very Pink Game. It was made in RPG Maker, but unlike most games made with the program, Porpentine noted, there wasn’t any sort of focus on combat.
And as an avid horror fan, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Imscared. It features many of the concepts inherent to the genre – poor lighting, eerie writings on the wall, etc. – but it also messes with the player by meddling with their computer, leaving pictures, and tricking them whenever possible. It sounds terrifying. Also, awesome.
If it sounds like I’m listing off games for the heck of it, I promise you I’m not. The point I’m trying to make – or, really, the point Cavanagh and Porpentine were trying to make – is that games come in all shapes and sizes. They can be easy to miss sometimes, which is why it’s important that sites like Free Indie Games exist. They help out developers and players alike by sharing some of the wonderful, quirky games that pop up in locations like Newgrounds and other game portals. And more importantly, they help to identify great game from communities that are otherwise under-represented.
“It isn’t that women and queers and people or color aren’t making games," says Porpentine, "It’s that they’re not being covered sufficiently.” As someone who writes about games for a living, Porpentine, I vow to keep my ear to the ground and try harder to cover more games that cater to people other than myself.