Welcome to the New Wave

A long time ago, in a land not too far away, a small group of people decided that a media form they passionately loved no longer spoke to them, or for them. They felt that their views and passions were no longer being represented, that the creatives responsible were too bound by tradition and financial obligations to try new things, new forms, new ideas. So they did something about it, and in doing so went on to create works that profoundly resonated with their audiences, as seen in their significant commercial and critical successes, while inspiring a generation of creatives around the world to try new things, to tell new stories and to offer new experiences.

Papo & Yo – a deeply personal tale that resonated with players worldwide.

Obviously there’s a bit more to it than such an overview can convey, but that’s pretty much how the French New Wave, or ‘Nouvelle Vague’, went down. A group largely consisting of young film critics, fed up with what they referred to as the ‘Tradition of Quality’ – the blockbuster movies of their day – went on to make their own independent productions, enabled by technological advances and forward-thinking techniques that greatly reduced the cost of producing their own films. Released in and around the early 1960s, the films of the French New Wave proved to everyone concerned that strong ideas executed well are just as compelling – if not more so – than many of the more established forms and genres of the time.

And as we draw ever closer to the next console generation finally kicking off, one thought keeps bouncing around my head:

All of this has happened before and it will all happen again.

That Dragon, Cancer – a powerful example of what interactive experiences are capable of

We’re seeing the exact same thing happen with indie developers in the current games industry. While the likes of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto will always be a part of the gaming landscape, a significant number of developers and creatives are stepping away from our equivalent ‘Tradition of Quality’. They are abandoning the pursuit of photorealistic graphics, of creating ever more inventive ways of killing in-game avatars, of worrying more about creating sustainable multimedia franchises than in creating unique experiences. Instead, they are creating games that say something more personal to them, or that are more simple and straightforward; games that value meaningful experiences and/or fun and enjoyment over spectacle and monetisation.

…there will always be a place for the blockbuster games people love, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with such games nor with enjoying them.

And thank fuck for that. Don’t get me wrong – there will always be a place for the blockbuster games people love, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with such games nor with enjoying them. They just don’t really say anything to me anymore, nor to many of my peers. They no longer represent ideas or outlooks that intrigue or inspire me and, from what I’ve seen over the last few years with the myriad paths that indie games are taking, I think that goes for a great number of people involved in making and experiencing videogames.

Just as the films and filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague didn’t spell the end for the blockbuster movies they rallied against, neither will the rise of indie games spell doom for established franchises – nor should they, for that matter. But right now we are in a world of fantastic opportunity for such creatives who’ve never had such resources, tools, techniques and platforms available to them. The time is ripe for ‘strong ideas executed well’; more and more examples of powerful interactive experiences, unconventional ideas and startlingly original works are appearing on all major gaming platforms – this is not a coincidence.

This is a New Wave for videogames, right now. Someone pass me a surfboard.


2 responses to “Welcome to the New Wave”

  1. Rico avatar

    Damn straight, lets hope those indie developers prevail ay!

  2. Jay avatar

    Yeah I gotta agree here, my gaming needs/wants have definitely shifted over the past year alone and I’ve been craving more games that actually provide an engaging experience, rather than just an open world of never ending quests and collectables (though don’t get me wrong, I do like those things in moderation….) I wonder why that is….

    While not essentially an Indie game, I’ve harped on to enough of my friends now about the Telltale ‘Walking Dead’ series and how that game (and it’s more of an interactive story than anything) gave me one of the most memorable and emotional experiences of my gaming life – but Braid and Limbo are two other indie titles that I’ve relished for their style and tone providing me with a more compelling experience than most AAA titles. Yep Giles, Indie developers have been hitting this New Wave and hitting it well, leaving me lots of titles to be excited about…

    BUT…. I think the big boys have noticed. And taken this as a slap in the face and responded correctly – with big titles which have big ideas, or grand ambition, or just compelling tone and narrative. The Last of Us, for one, was an amazingly gripping, emotional experience. Catherine was a bizzare & unique experience to say the least. As was Heavy Rain & Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls. So yeah, lets hope for more of these incredible indie games coming through, as it seems to be having a hugely positive effect!

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