The days of big publishing houses being the major deciders of what kinds of games people get to play are over. Although alternative methods of game development and distribution have existed for as long as the industry itself - in the 1990s we called them "Shareware" - only the last couple of years have made indies a viable contender against the triple A model with ever more easily accessible tools and digital distribution. Fueled by a number of surprise successes - Jonathan Blow's Braid, Amanita Design's Machinarium, Markus Persson's Minecraft and thatgamecompany's products like Flower and The Journey, among others - the indie scene has pushed itself more and more into the spotlight. The recent profilation of crowd-funding has even made publisher-independent titles with a decent budget possible, and also brought many industry veterans back in the game.
At the same time these small games brought back the notion of valuing video game auteurship over design by committee, which had mostly gotten lost sometime after Activision and Sierra first started to proudly print the faces of their designers on their games' boxes in the early '80s. Artistic game design vision has become a more widely recognized topic than ever before, and with it came an unprecedented rise in creativity. Subsequently, these past few years have seen a ton of interesting indie games that try out all kinds of new ideas, or proceeded in cutting away all the unnecessary dead weight from well-established genres. Yet many of them are rather small, or the "new" is such a central element that they're best covered as discretely as possible, so it's hard to come up with enough to say to justify a major article on them. Also, there are so many games worth talking about, that it's hard to get to covering even the most interesting ones in detail.
Enter our 500-Word Indies column, where we pick an old or new independent game every week, to try to convey what makes it special in roughly 500 words. The word limit is aimed at enabling us to briefly introduce and evalue interesting titles without the amount of preparation of a regular Hardcore Gaming 101 article, and without demanding more time from the reader than it would take to play through the often rather short games. Precise and to the point will be the motto for the writing here. Other indie games that demand more exhaustive examination will continue to be covered in standalone articles.