Saturday, August 25, 2007

Come Not Near To Me, For I Be Indier Than Thou

Joe pointed me to a very hot thread on Story Games where the initial poster seems to think that a lot of "indie" game designers and fans sound too much like MC Frontalot...

soundly situated in obscurityland
famous in inverse proportion to how cool I am
and should I ever garner triple-digit fans
you can tell me then there's someone I ain't indier than...

and if you're slow on the uptake, I'll lay it out
hipsterism is a religion to which you gotta be devout
must be seen as in between unpopular and hated
or else get excommunicated
I'm not a regular Story Games poster so I'm going to indulge myself by spouting off here instead. The whole discussion is, if you want a diverting free-for-all, entertaining, and if you don't, tedious.

My favorite replies were from Matt Snyder, Tony Lower-Basch, Judd Karlman, and Christopher Kubiasik. I liked what Andy K and some others had to say, but I thought they made the mistake of wasting too much time on the issue.

I guess bottom line the problem is the many meanings and connotations of the term "indie." It can mean...

  1. Creator-owned and controlled
  2. Non-traditionally distributed
  3. Created with a consciousness of GNS Theory
  4. Consciously Narrativist
  5. Created by people who post on the Forge
  6. Sold at the Forge Booth at GenCon
  7. Non-broken with respect to creative agendas
  8. Cool and hip
  9. Part of a special community of creative rebels
  10. Having a delicious Creme Filling
One could try to define it better, but one can't force others at gunpoint to use one's favorite definition. As long as value judgments and identity issues are wrapped up in a term like that people are going to get bent out of shape over it. So it goes.

UPDATE: the thread continues apace, and with each post I read of it, I lose a few more brain cells. With a few exceptions, the authors of which don't need me to tell them they're exceptions.

I think this kind of thread is what forced Ron and Clinton to reorganize the Forge to try to minimize such wankery, the alternative being gnawing their own legs off.

UPDATE UPDATE: I almost posted the following to the thread, but stopped myself:

I'm wondering if Ron or others ever regret his choice of the domain name "" -- cause I think if he'd gone for something uglier like "" such threads wouldn't exist.

As far as I'm concerned, the only meaning of "indie" which is relevant to the "indie rpgs" movement which stems from the Forge is "creator-owned," because that's what Ron meant by it, and Ron is the one who by his choice of domain names attached the word "indie" to the community.

If that's not what the word "indie" means to you, then fuck the word "indie." Don't use it.


Anonymous said...

I'm fighting for creator owned and controlled. Although I really like creme filling, and with Luke Crane and Jared Sorenson working on a game called Donut, I may have to change my mind.

Personally my take on that thread is; worrying about community is silly and counterproductive. Find your Friends and Family, and F random guys on the bus. This attitude can save yourself a lot of consternation, typing time, and worrying about trying to fit in or be accepted.

Ed H said...

Yeah, Clyde, that's what I thought it meant too, which is why Mike Holmes' comment about "to be indie, there has to be an establishment to rebel against" or whatever was so weird.

Theoretically you could have an RPG industry where everything was creator owned and controlled, and therefore "independent." Everyone could be indie if that's what everyone wanted.

But I was using the "creator owned and controlled" definition and it soon became clear a lot of people were NOT on that page. (Surprising to hear that from Mike of all people though..)

Anonymous said...

I'm leary to put words in Mike's mouth since he's a friend, and also shows up at most the local conventions I go to....

I think what he may have been pointing at is if the industry were completely creator owned there would be no need for the term Indie. The distinction wouldn't be necessary.

I may have to ask him about this when we finally sit down and do his interview.

Ron Edwards said...


Ed Healy and I founded the original Hephaestus' Forge together. He set up all the computer stuff; I didn't even know what a server was.

I've written about the origin of the idea and the nature of Hephaestus' Forge elsewhere. The site was based on creator ownership only. A key part of the idea, which is still extant today, is that anyone who *already* has an independent game can waltz up and participate, even get their own forum if they want. If they don't want to, that's cool too; it's a site *for* independent games, not a site from which any non-participant is designate *not* independent.

Ed chose the domain name "indierpgs," on his own. I had no part in that decision, but also zero interest. It was a bunch of letters to type to get to the site, as far as I was concerned.

Whether Ed was shooting for the hip cachet of "indie" as applied to film or music, or whether he was using short-hand for "independent," or whether it was a deeply considered decision or not, is totally not known, especially not to me. Nor do I think it's very important. Seems to me that when you arrive at a website dedicated to X, you find out what X is according to them in order to participate there.

I mean, it's not like I go on an indignant toot because "jobs" means something different at a porn site than what I was hoping for if I ran a Google search looking for employment.

Anyway, back to the discussion of the site. Ed's server situation ran into rocks in 2000, and both the Sorcerer site and the Forge were rescued by Clinton. He was able to preserve the Sorcerer URL, but "indierpgs" was lost forever and we needed a new domain name. Again, without much reflection or any perceived need to do so, he just stuck a dash into it for "indie-rpgs."

That's it. That's all there is to the dreaded THE FORGE STOLE INDIE FROM THE REST OF US freakout. It was always called "the internet home of independent RPGs," and the local definition (and purpose of the site) has been exactly the same since Mike Mearls, Ed Healy, and I first discussed the idea at the Gaming Outpost.

As a final point, I'm happy to post here at Esoteric Murmurs, but it's one of a very, very few blogs or off-Forge RPG sites that I will even visit, much less post at. So I hope it's OK for me to raise this rhetorical question: if anyone ever wondered why "indie" is part of the URL at the Forge, why didn't they simply post at Site Discussion or send me an email to ask me? I posed that in order to answer it myself. I suspect it's because getting fired-up about some made-up, status-ridden, inferred answer is more important to many people than actually knowing the truth - perhaps the big fear is that the truth is, in fact, boring and not worth a fart, much less multi-post kerfuffles.

Best, Ron

Ed H said...

Ron, thanks for the post. "the truth is, in fact, boring and not worth a fart, much less multi-post kerfuffles" --

Thanks. That puts it all together rather nicely.

And I'm pleased to know the Murmurs, humble though they be, are on your short list of places you are willing to bother with. Esoteric Murmurs -- low-profile enough to keep it wankfest-free since 2005! :)