So, here’s a thing that’s been bothering me for a while. Indie meetups in London are all held in affluent north London neighbourhoods. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with the events themselves but let’s look at the location.
London Indies. So that’s a bit northeast of UCL, The British Library, the Institute of Education, Pretty prestigious places, I should know, I work in the area and a pint costs about £4.50 in even the cheapest pubs.
London Unity User Group, (LUUG) Soho square!
These events are for Indie people, students, and yes fully paid professional developers but they’re a bit exclusive. By exclusive I mean they exclude people not “hey isn’t this place great”, it’s prohibitively expensive to buy a drink after these events and I’m an employed developer! What’s it like for the students?
The locations of these events aren’t about games they’re about cool, indie chic. They remind me of Apple products, they’re overpriced and really what you pay Apple for is the ability to show you have the money to own their devices. I’m not going to get bogged down in the “yeah but it’s all about the design”, “Apple just works” argument. I own a Mac and a PC I use them for different purposes and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I use them for far more interesting and complicated things than 99% of the people who own either. There’s stuff I don’t like, stuff I do like, but there’s one thing that can’t be denied with a straight face and that’s the poser value of Apple products.
This same mentality seems pervasive in indie games as well. The events are all held in “interesting” bars and pubs because they’ve not “sold out to the continuing homogenisation of the high street yeah?”
Here’s my issue, most students and most indie dev’s can’t afford this. It’s great if you have rich parents or live at home so there’s a lot of extra cash flying about. I have no issue with you if you’re well off, or as the phrase goes, you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Good luck to you, I don’t care, it’s the way of the world, some people are luckier than others. I’m not out to attack rich people, I’m too busy making games and getting drunk with friends.
What would be nice though, is having some events that everyone can get to and afford to go to. I studied game design at London South Bank University. The LUUG used to be held there and since it’s in Elephant and Castle it has excellent travel links to almost all of London north and south.
Something that always confused me though was this. At equal distance from LSBU there are two pubs, one named The Ship that has London priced beer, London priced food, it’s small, it gets crowded easily and it takes a pretty long time to get served when it’s busy. The other pub, the Rockingham Arms. It’s massive, there’s always space to sit down, loads of staff, cheap food, cheap beer. The only thing that was wrong? It’s a Wetherspoon’s.
The mention of a Wetherspoon’s pub instantly brought a pompous sneer to the face of everyone I ever suggested it to at an indie game meetup. Why? I thought this was about games? I thought this was about a place to meet and discuss ideas among people that usually don’t have that much money. I would have thought a pub without an entertainment licence would be far better suited to the events in question since it’s about talking about our shared interests, but apparently not.
So is this what indie is now? It’s not the ability to make a game about the things we love, it’s the opportunity to pose in a tiny bar that none of us can really afford to be in.
What’s worse in all this is that the people who can’t afford to go to these places are the ones I’d be interested in meeting. The people who’ve grown up without the financial help, the people who have stories to tell, the people that can diversify games and give us new interesting ways to view our world.
We need more events that are cheap to go to, we need people to agree on the cheap pubs and get their heads out of their own arses. We need to make it so that these events are open to all, not just the North London elite. Because right now, you can only be Indie, as long as you can afford it.