Ron Gilbert: Indie Games Push Gaming Forward

Ron Gilbert: Indie Games Push Gaming Forward

"My name is Ron Gilbert, and I'm a World of Warcraft addict," the Monkey Island creator said in his opening keynote address at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle.

"I've been sober for five hours," he said before adding, "Just kidding. I was playing backstage."

Gilbert was the original Monkey Island's game designer back in 1990. Back then, there was - practically - no gaming industry, and such a job title was almost unheard of. In his keynote, Gilbert pondered about his experience as a game designer from the industry's infancy and till now.

"The original [The Secret of] Monkey Island team consisted of seven people," including programmers Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman, who turned out to be funny guys with a strong faculty for writing, Gilbert recalled.

"Monkey Island's entire budget was $135,000, and that was a triple-A game back then. The teams were small, the budgets were small, and it was all new. There were very few rules, and you made them up as you went along. We made games because we had a good idea, and inspiration was often our only approval process."

"The games industry today is just that -- an industry. Some games still come from raw inspiration, but it is not uncommon for them to be born out of marketing plans, and focus tests, and corporate strategy."

But the days of inspiration-driven games are not over, thanks to the growing number of indie developers which Gilbert describes as: "small teams making small games born out of pure passion, small teams trying new ideas, and small teams pushing the edge."

"They have the freedom to fail," he added. "They have the freedom to be different, and the freedom to push beyond what's safe. This is what big companies cannot do. Big companies have to be safe. They are afraid of failure. Indie games have the freedom to be better."