Rami Ismail: ‘Indie is bigger than ever and also it is dead’

During their keynote ‘Rami & Mike One on One’ at Develop:Brighton, Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail and Thomas was Alone developer Mike Bithell discussed the evolution of the current generation of indie.

During the conversation, Ismail explained how indie has evolved in such a way that its traditional definition no longer applies.

“Indie is bigger than ever and also it is dead. It is both those things,” he said. “The beautiful thing about indie is that it has grown beyond any proportion we could have thought. In 2010, the whole idea of indie was like a punk rock kind of a culture, like ‘fuck these triple-A assholes’, which obviously is super immature, I love triple-A and all of that, but we needed something to kick against, to start something. We didn’t even know something was starting, we just wanted to make games and we needed something to be loud with. And then suddenly other people were like ‘Oh, hey, if these people can do it, then we can do it’. At first it was a very small, very coherent scene. Like 30-40 people. And now we’re looking at indie as this global force of developers worldwide, people creating personal games.”

Reacting to Ismail’s statement, Bithell asked: “Don’t you think we’re also just the last cycle? Like I see punk rock happening and I look at it and I do not get this. And that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? Are we doomed to become ageing punk rockers?”

Ismail replied: “Here’s the thing: when I say indie is dead, I think that is good. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The best thing that has happened to game development is that somebody took a sledgehammer to all those bigs concepts and then shattered them into a million pieces. So instead of having indie, you have all of these different layers, they’re all little fragments with each their own community, things they want change, things they want to rebel against. And seeing all these little shards reminds me of my travels when I go to a country and it’s a small eco-system with their own developers, their own heroes, their own purposes, their own history, and I want more of that. Because in the end, to me indie meant you didn’t have to give a shit about what everybody else was labelling you.”

Later during the keynote, both were also asked to give advice to aspiring devs. Mike Bithell’s first piece of advice was that you shouldn’t name your company after your surname (for those of you not following: that’s exactly what Bithell did years ago), before adding: “Be ready for the potential that your hobby might actually become your job, and that you might actually have the success you’re hoping for. And make some decisions accordingly. There is not a way to make a game that’s going to be successful, there is no 100% certainty. The best objective you can have is to survive, be healthy, be happy and keep making stuff.”

To which Ismail replied: “But also do the opposite of that, aim for the stars, believe you’re making the best hit thing. Make your dream game, make every mistake, everybody gets there through their mistakes. The beauty of the game industry, and creative industries in general, is that it doesn’t really matter too much what path you’re taking. Sometimes shit works out. And we’ve reached this weird point in the industry where if you do everything right you’re going to flip a coin 25 times and if it’s heads 25 times then congratulations you’ve got a hit game! It’s the games industry so you work hard and then hopefully maybe something works out. So if you’re going to give this a shot, you might as well bring your dreams.”

To read more from Rami Ismail, keep an eye out for our next issue, coming out in a couple of weeks

About Marie Dealessandri

Marie Dealessandri is MCV’s former senior staff writer. After testing the waters of the film industry in France and being a radio host and reporter in Canada, she settled for the games industry in London in 2015. She can be found (very) occasionally tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate, Hollow Knight and the Dead Cells soundtrack.

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