Indie or Mainstream? Tensions and Nuances between the Alternative and the Mainstream in Indie Games


  • Óliver Pérez Latorre Universitat Pompeu Fabra


The commercial emergence of “indie games” since 2008 represents a fundamental challenge for contemporary game studies. As we still do not have a clear definition of the indie game, its popularity and commercial success have made the conceptualization of this type of game even more complex. Far from being a pure videogame model, completely separated from the mainstream sphere, indie games often involve hybridizations and ambiguities between the alternative and the mainstream.

Thus this article aims to problematize the neat conceptualizations of indie games as an opposing “genre” to mainstream games by exploring the many tensions and nuances between the alternative and mainstream dimensions that can be identified within indie game production, culture and design.

The first part of the article focuses on the production and distribution issues, as well as on the cultural construction and artistic legitimation of indie games. The article then posits a design-centered analytical approach to indie games inspired by Kellner (1995) and based on “procedural rhetorics” (Bogost, 2006; Flanagan and Nissenbaum, 2014). This approach is used to look at commercially successful indie games, which we consider to be an especially suitable object of study for exploring and understanding contemporary culture through the frictions between hegemonic culture and counter-culture, progressivism and conservatism, capitalism and anti-capitalism, as well as the way we conceive these notions.


indie game, design, culture, ideology, mainstream


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Author Biography

Óliver Pérez Latorre, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Óliver Pérez Latorre is a Junior Lecturer in the Department of Communication at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). He is a member of the research group UNICA.  His research focuses on game studies and the semiotics of new entertainment media. He has published articles on videogame theory and analysis in academic journals such as European Journal of Communication and Games and Culture. He is the author of the books El lenguaje videolúdico: Análisis de la significación del videojuego [The videoludic language: Analysisis of video game’s meaning] (Laertes, 2012) and El arte del entretenimiento. Un ensayo sobre el diseño de experiencias en narrativa, videojuegos y redes sociales [The art of entertainment. An essay on the design of experiences in narrative, videogames and social media] (Laertes, 2015).




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