by Mike Shea on 13 August 2008

I'm a big fan of independent popular art. My enjoyment of a movie is a simple equation of the quality of the movie divided by the cost. Thats why I so hate movies like Pirates of the Caribbean. It would be a good movie if it cost 30 million. At 300 million, however, the movie sucks.

Independent movies, music, books and independent music have a rough go of it these days. Mainstream producers have cornered the market, making it very difficult for independent producers to get their content in front of the public. Movies like Primer and The Fountain can make it in front of us but we have to wonder how many other good movies never make it because they don't have the 50 million dollar advertisement budget.

Luckily, games don't have it so bad. Microsoft and Sony both promote independent gaming through their downloadable networks. They make it easy for a small production group, even one person, to create a game and distribute it to potentially millions of users. No doubt there's pain involved in this distribution. Microsoft and Sony are still big companies with corporate politics and bureaucracy that get in the way of a creator and his or her audience, but we have seen some excellent small budget games. is one of them.

One guy dreamed up and built with an independent artist doing the artwork and licensing music from other independent music artists. Now it is a cornerstone Xbox Live Arcade game with a downloadable free demo and a $15 full-game cost. From the moment I heard about the game to the moment I had it in hand was about five minutes with no major investment from me until I played through the first level and decided that I wanted to spend my $15 bucks. This is something I know Nintendo hasn't figured out about downloadable games yet. Give me a sample if you expect me to buy.

is beautiful. The artwork is amazing. The story, though it grows more and more confusing as you go, is quite deep. The gameplay is simple on the surface, deep as you get into it, and is most of all quite fun. The music was so good I immediately purchased all eight tracks off of Amazon. The game's creator, a somewhat pompous Jonathan Blow, described how he chose independent music artists for the same reason that he himself built - because, like him, they created their art for the sake of the art, not for the money.

Jonathan Blow spent about $180,000 of his own money, maxing out his credit cards and spending three years of his life making this game. He knew he was making something special, and he did. Contrast this to the $60 million that Halo 3, a sequel, cost.

proves to me that the independent game market is a real force in gaming. While we will never break away from the huge Halo 3 megahits with their Hollywood-level production costs, I think we're going to see more and more independent games showing up on the top 10 lists. Producers are going to see that too and will do more to fund them. The independent gaming market is going to be huge.

is an amazing and beautiful game. Go try out the demo and, once complete, give them your $15. The game is worth every penny.