Unveiling the Definition of Indie at The Game Awards

The Game Awards made a mistake this year. One of the titles nominated for Best Independent Game, Dave the Diver, was produced by Nexon, a major video game studio in South Korea. Despite being an excellent pixel-art game about deep-sea fishing and restaurant management, it is not indie. It was funded and commissioned by Nexon subsidiary Mintrocket, with decades of experience and billions of dollars behind it. The debate over what “indie” means was reignited when the nominees were announced. Nexon’s Taehwan Kim also weighed in, stating that Dave the Diver may look like an indie game, but it is not necessarily the case. The listing for Best Independent Game now includes a reader-generated context tag emphasizing that it is not an indie game. The debate over the definition of “indie” has raised more questions than answers, with no consensus in sight. The Game Awards organizer Geoff Keighley stated that “independent” is a broad term with an unclear definition. The jury, comprising 120 media outlets, was blamed for the mistake. The debate over the definition of “indie” is constantly changing, and it has led to many recurring arguments. The search for a definition includes questions about the source of a studio’s money, ownership by a platform holder, and creative control. In today’s thriving indie industry, securing a publisher does not affect whether a game is indie. Being owned by a publisher, however, changes everything and many small studios flow between independent and non-independent statuses.