Notgames Fest

This summer, the Cologne Game Lab is starting the Notgames Fest. Tale of Tales have agreed to work with us on this. Instead of explaining everything, just check out our website.

This is my personal Blog so I wanted to write down some of the reasons why this is a project that I find very, very important. It’s because I’m worried about the future of Indie Game Design – specifically Indie Game Design in Europe. This young movement just barely got off the ground. We had a few noteworthy victories. But the big business guys are about to turn around and catch up with us. The pure creative spirit of this community is getting gooped up with exploitative business setups and single-minded shovelware similar to those that essentially killed the creative spirit of the AAA Industry.

I’m a strong believer that Indie Game Design can still save this medium. But there are three goals we need to achieve:

    • Bride the Gap – Right now there seems to be a substantial gap between the very successful Indie developers and the unknown ones. Indies can’t rely on marketing. So success depends a lot on chance. You need to win awards or get featured on one of the large blogs. Only very few can make a living off it. Getting started is difficult too. Most often than not, you will need to fund entire projects on your own. As if development wasn’t difficult enough.

      There are private indie funds coming up which can help bridging those gaps and cultivating a healthy middle-ground. The European way to do this is to use arts funding from the government. The governments are starting to notice. We need to approach them and let them know that we are here.

      Emancipate – The traditional games industry is in the process of disassembly. Social Games, Mobile Games, Casual Games – the traditional channels are failing at spanning the spectrum of this increasingly growing medium. Something is not right when reviews of games like Flower appear right next to reviews of God of War – complete with a “review score” implying comparability.

      We need to complete this process on the development side. The fundamental reality of Indie game development barley resembles the traditional industry. Why are they expecting us to pay for the same, over-priced business conferences just to meet up? Why are they expecting us to publish our games through the same cumbersome, bureaucratic channels? We need alternatives that aren’t designed for multi-million dollar franchises. And we need to control them ourselves. The Independent Games movement offers the unique opportunity to establish a relationship between the authors and channel owners that actually empowers content-creators and not the middle-men. This configuration led other media to maturity. We should take this path as well.

      Synchronize – Finally, we need to come together on an ideological level. Right now, we are just separate people each doing their own thing. That’s also how we appear to our audience. Of course, this individuality is an important aspect of our work. But there are also similarities between our projects we shouldn’t disregard. We should reach out and recognize ourselves in each other. We might be able to establish common threads and cultivate common identities around them.

      This is especially important for us European developers. We have a smaller local audience and a lot of competition from overseas. But we live and work close to each spatially, mentally and culturally. We should aim at coming together and starting to build a common European understanding as developers. One that does not mimic our colleagues from overseas or the mainstream industry. One that pays tribute to who we actually are and who we aren’t.

  • Is the Notgames Fest going to achieve all this? Absolutely not! But it is an opportunity to come together and start talking. It could become a fist step on this difficult journey.

    So join us! Submit a game if you have one. If you don’t, just come over anyway, it won’t interfere with GDC Europe / Gamescom Schedule. It’s free – as all the best things in life are. Also, we have German beer and BBQ.

    Krystian Majewski

    Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

    4 responses to “Notgames Fest”

    1. Ava Avane Dawn
    2. Daniel Renkel

      that sounds great, kyst.

      i don’t think i’ll have something worth to show this year, so i’ll hope it will work out well so you establish it as a yearly meeting in parallel to GC!

      hopefully i have something to show next year, as my own games currently in work are not yet great enough, as all i want to achieve with them is to earn the money to tackle big ideas.

    3. Dear Esther and Indie Fund | Digital Tools

      [...] Creative Indiegames like Dear Esther are fundable, because there are small teams working on the title, not teams that are like 20 or 100 members big. Original indiegames can make enough money, to refund, but do not necessarily be real million sellers. This is why this could be the right time with the right opportunities for getting big in being indie. Let’s look forward to it! (via) [...]

    4. 020200

      Where will the event take place? At the Cologne Game Lab? I was wondering, because it reads “near Kölnmesse” in the announcement.


    The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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