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My Bad Indie Game Habit

also known as "Why I’m Paying For Hades At Full Price But Not Playing It"
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Hades has just been released to a nice 20% discount on the Nintendo Store. Nearly four years ago Pyre was released to the same 20% discount. Back in 2015, Transistor was given away for free at the PSN store. Subsequently, it also went on sale for $5.99 on the Nintendo Store recently. I own all three games (twice for Transistor), but I’ve only beaten one Supergiant game, and that was Bastion when it dropped in Xbox Live Arcade back in 2011.

Bastion was probably the first Indie game I purchased at full price, mainly because it cost a measly 600 Xbox Live Points. At the time when I purchased Xbox Live Points, it was to secure DLC for the latest AAA game, that being Mass Effect 2. When Bastion released at 600 points as a fully playable game, I jumped at the chance of owning it. Three hours later of nonstop playing and a soothing Nick Cave soundtrack, I completed the game with the full achievement list completed. At that point, I realized the joy of indie games, mainly because they were inexpensive, can be completed in a few hours or less, and they’re easy trophy/achievement bait.

Fast forward almost ten years and I’ve found myself with a habit of acquiring Indie Games, but not exactly playing them. In a way, I feel that I’m mostly donating to these studios, but not really fully realizing their vision by previewing the first fifteen minutes, eagerly awaiting a safe place to save and returning to my AAA comfort zone.

The same case could be made for Night School Studio, where I was completely enamored by Oxenfree back in 2016 that I spent the next 12 hours completing every iteration of the game. When Afterparty released last year, I bought the game again at 20% off to only play about a good 40 minutes of it and then parking it to my to play list but it’s nearing a year and inertia has caused me to not pick it up again. The same can be said for Fullbright’s Tacoma, a game I’ve purchased with 10% off at launch, but I’ve never downloaded it at all. Gone Home was an excellent three hour experience I picked up when I first got my PS4 and enjoyed the journey.

The last Indie game I’ve completed through and through is This War of Mine, which I’ve purchased through several mediums. First on PC when it dropped back in 2014, then on Google Store when it was introduced for $4.99 and finally this year when they gave it for the same price on PS4. I’ve been meaning to sit through a full playthrough and finally found the time and the mental energy to do so. Another indie game I’ve completed recently was YIIK: The Postmdoern RPG, but unlike This War of Mine, I have mixed feelings about that game.

So why is it that I compile such a library of these critically acclaimed games but rarely play them?

They’re Short AF

These days, if you wait about eight months, you could chance upon a AAA title that goes between $10 to $30, depending on the popularity of the game. I recently purchased the full set of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey packaged with a remastered Assassin’s Creed 3 for $40. That’s a good 100+ hours of gaming right there. A full priced indie title can be completed in about at an average three hours and you could extend that to twelve. There goes $20 of your hard earned cash.

By force of habit, I try to delay finishing said game because maybe if I own it long enough, I could get over the fact that I dropped a lot of money on a really well made experience, but at worst I could literally finish it in 30 minutes. I want to get my money’s worth. That being said, as they are indie titles…

They Take A Lot of Patience

There’s this comfort with AAA titles where with the exception of a few games, you basically get your money’s worth. You want to shoot stuff, Call of Duty will give you enough things to shoot. You want to save the world and get everyone in that world to love you because you’re the chosen one? Final Fantasy will fulfill that need. You need to get lost in a twenty hour immersive world with rich detail and enough sandbox to distract you? Then look no further than any of Sony’s first party games.

However, an indie title is a mixed bag of good things and things you did not expect. For something like Oxenfree and Firewatch, it gave me a storytelling experience I find lacking in AAA games. Plus it’s great once in a while to experience walking simulators without killing anything in the next five minutes. In fact, in the case of This War of Mine, you could literally mentally incapacitate your character because you killed someone. Maybe that day, you need to take out some steam and waste some noobs in a deathmatch, exploring your inner traumas would probably not be in your priority right now.

It’s a World That Loses its Novelty Quickly

In the case of Transistor, it’s a beautiful RPG with a mysterious cyberpunk vibe. Yet it follows a more visual novel approach to its action, meaning it’s so damn linear. It took me a while to realize that it doesn’t follow the same save point route as most RPGs, and unlike Bastion, I lost interest in the world about twenty minutes in.

Pyre and Afterparty worked the same way, but I felt that not only did the novelty die down after fifteen minutes in, I also felt that I could finish this one sitting. There’s nothing more demotivating than a title that you feel you could finish, but at the same time you’ve lost interest in the world. It could be partly because of the graphics, I mean the artwork is fantastic, but enough time spent looking at a good thing could wear itself thin.

AAA titles have several techniques they use to maintain your interest, like dropping a few side quests to get you going. Sandbox games like The Witcher 3 and most Ubisoft games do these in bursts, hitting that dopamine receptor with some loot and some manageable enemies to get you going for the next quest. Unfortunately, indie titles only have enough budget to tell their main campaign and then move on. Putting the game down is really an interest killer sometimes. It takes a few more three-hour sessions to turn it into a mini-habit. However, by the time you hit that three hour mark, the game is probably over and you either replay it or move on.

What About Hades?

Hades came out on the Switch and I downloaded it on my Switch Lite. It’s about 5.5 gigs and it boasts a dark RPG world that reminds me of Bastion meets Transistor. Maybe the story and the soundtrack is good, maybe it falls under the same tried and tested route by Supergiant in the past. It’s probably something I would play in between waiting for Cyberpunk 2077 or on a non-busy day.

Ok who am I kidding, it looks freaking amazing and I’ll have a review on it soon.

Anyways…

We can also flip the switch with the critical items I mentioned about Indie games. Given that we have a busy schedule, we can complete more games given their shorter length. We can take breaks from the cookie cutter AAA storylines with a more unique approach to storytelling told in an interactive format. Finally, maybe it’s an art choice or a style that we would probably like but if we didn’t take a chance with the game, we probably would miss out on a new experience.

At least one thing I can say about this “bad habit” is that it continually adds to the coffers of these indie companies so that one day, maybe they can be a full AAA studio giving us the tried and tested AAA formula. We could remember their humble beginnings when we play their high profile titles in the future and pat ourselves in the back for keeping them going when they needed us the most.

Author

Vincent Ternida moved Vancouver, Canada in 2006 and called it home ever since. He spends the lockdown catching up with his Japanese RPGs, writing his new manuscripts, and figuring out why he suddenly became the main character of the latest Haruki Murakami novel.

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