The variety was overwhelming. A MAZE IndieConnect‘s attendees ranged from psychedelic games designer Jonatan ‘Cactus’ Soderstrom to the academic perspective of Douglas Wilson, Proteus creator Ed Key and Dutch indie developer Richard Boeser. They mingled, met up, presented, inspired and informed each other.
It is almost absurd to consider that in America, even though travel times there are enormous compared to our tiny continent, there are a variety of events and initiatives that bring indie developers together.
In Europe, A MAZE Indie Connect seems to be the first non-half assed attempt at a conference that brings indies together in a familiar, creative, business-free environment. Unlike Festival of Games, Casual Connect or similar conferences that sometimes attempt to throw in some indie-track, A MAZE Indie Connect is an event for indies, by indies – no giant banners about monetization, no ‘business innovation partners’ & no offers to have your game published by some publisher (but only if you do an iOS / Facebook crossover version of your new twin stick shooter for maximal user retention).
Somewhere during the second day I ran into people that I first felt might have been misinformed about what A MAZE Indie Connect exactly is. In suit and dress, they walked around looking somewhat bewildered between the casual attire of all the other attendees. I introduced myself and found out that they were Dutch government employees – nice, open and friendly people that seemed sincerely hoping to help the indie scene. They were wondering how they could help indies, recognizing the cultural relevance and economic potential of having a solid scene. I already knew what my answer was going to be, yet instead of flat-out telling them, I opted to make my point by showing them around and introduce them to all the Dutch exhibitors, nominees, jurors and game developers that were attending.
Every person I introduced them to, spoke about different things. We talked about Game Jams like the Berlin Indie Game Jam, all the interesting events happening in England and about other popular events in the scene. We spoke about creativity and money, indie culture and whether there is such a thing. We spoke about the international indie scenes and the attendees.
They were somewhat baffled by the diversity and quality – and reluctantly they admitted that they had not thought that the game industry offered such wildly varying perspectives. Three hours after we started, we concluded the tour, we had been talking to four completely different types of people – with each their own needs, problems and solutions to said problems. There was just one thing that kept being repeated over and over by every single one of them.
We found ourselves standing at the bar. “Look”, I said, “the thing is that expensive parties, pitch & matches, business-focused events aren’t helping the indie scene. What those do is create an artificial framework of dependencies on the government”. I pointed at a table where a Polish indie developer was showing his game to a group of other indies. They had been discussing the game and somehow, they ended up convincing him to submit his game to IndieCade, one of the largest indie game-awards. They continued to talk about which press-outlets would post about the game and whether they could put him in touch with some people they knew.
“The thing is, that framework you’re trying to create is already in place for the indie scene – although it is based on mutual respect, an urge to create beautiful things and the consensus that ‘competition’ is a rather empty phrase amongst indies. Indies work together and help each other to make beautiful stuff. They’ll buy each others games, help each other with the marketing, get each other in touch with publishers they worked with before or press that they find trustworthy.”
Next to the Polish indie is a Scandinavian indie discussing a deal he might or might not make. He’s casually playing a prototype Vlambeers’ Jan Willem made with an American indie developer during the Game Developers Conference.
“You don’t help indies by putting them in touch with business partners or innovation partners or publishers or anything. It’s expensive, it’s counterproductive and it’s supportive of business models a lot of indies prove to be outdated. Instead, what you do is spending a few hundred dollars on flying out a Dutch indie to an event they want to go to. By making sure they can be part of this natural framework of coöperation within the scene. The only real way to help out indies is by putting them in touch with other indies.”
The only real way to help out indies is by putting them in touch with other indies.