This project will critically map and examine the social-material assemblage of diverse, spatially distributed actors that make up independent or “indie” digital gaming in Canada. In the last decade, comparatively low-budget indie games made by individuals or small teams have emerged as the primary alternative to big-budget mainstream games, and are popularly understood o be a significant force of authenticity, innovation, and diversification in the culture and industry of digital games. However, the oppositional orientation of indie games towards the mainstream is fraught, and clear-cut distinctions between the two are complicated by increasing economic investment in smaller games by the mainstream games industry which has made “indie” as much a market category for participant style of small scale commercial titles as a mode of production or political orientation. Indie gaming now encompasses everything from aesthetically and political radical “artgames” to polish multi-million dollar franchises, ad this contended terrain is one of several key sites in the ongoing social and cultural legitimation of digital games.
This project will build on the diverse range of recent academic work on indie games, and in particular a special issue of the Canadian Game Studies journal "Loading" on indie game cultures. The purpose of the project is to expand the current approaches to examine the geographical distribution of the hubs and margins of indie gaming in Canada, how they interact, how they relate to one another, and how they are situated in North American gaming culture and the game industry, which is dominated by the United States.
This project seeks to give a complete picture of major indie game centre and actively seek out and ‘map’ the margins in an effort to trace connections and intersections. One objective is to contribute not only scholarly understanding, but also to the socio-cultural, political and economic value of indie gaming in Canada.