The nominated video game titles for each category of The Game Awards 2023 have been revealed. Among the nominees for the “Best Independent Game” category, the title Dave the Diver was included, raising a lot of questions in the community worldwide. Japanese developers have also raised doubts about how appropriate the nomination is.
The Game Awards include a number of different categories, and for each category several nominations are put forth, out of which the grand winner is chosen. For this year’s “Best Independent Game” category, the following titles have been nominated:
・Dave the Diver
・Sea of Stars
The nominees are all titles released this year which have achieved high critical acclaim. However, it’s been pointed out that the title Dave the Diver does not quite fit the description of an indie game. Game developers such as Tyler Glaiel, developer of titles such as “The End is Night” and “Closure,” has commented that Dave the Diver cannot fit any reasonable definition of the term “independent game,” a point he has made on a previous occasion as well.
The opinion seems to have been shared by many users and industry professionals, and the original post by The Game Awards’ X/Twitter account now has a community note including a statement that backs up the claim that Dave the Diver is “not necessarily” an indie game.
But what stops Dave the Diver from being an indie game? The game was created by a company belonging to the Nexon conglomerate, one of the world’s largest video game companies that runs titles such as MapleStory and Dungeon Fighter Online.
Dave the Diver was created by a small-scale development team within Nexon and released under the MINTROCKET brand. The question is whether it’s acceptable for a game made by a small in-house team at Nexon, a company with a huge capital base, to be included in the indie game category.
This is where the statements of Nexon and MINTROCKET themselves are important to take into account – they do not consider Dave the Diver an indie game and do not refer to themselves as an indie team. In a previous interview given by Jaeho Hwang, the director of the Dave the Diver project, he emphasized that the game was made within Nexon and by Nexon’s team and did not use the term “indie game” at any point. While large companies trying to pass off small in-house teams as indie developers is a pattern you see a lot nowadays, Dave the Diver does not seem to be such a case.
In the first place, the definition of “indie game” is somewhat vague, which keeps leading to discourse such as “What is the limit of what can be considered indie?” or “Can X title really be called indie?” But the most commonly cited characteristic of what makes an indie game an indie game is the absence of major capital backing it. Some even argue that games made with a certain degree of stability in terms of development environment and funding are not “indie-like.” The fine aspects of what indie means differ from person to person, but it seems that as far as Dave the Diver goes, the majority is not accepting of its nomination as an indie title due to the corporation behind it.
Nominations for The Game Awards are determined by a select jury that includes individuals from more than 100 media and influencer outlets from around the world. The 2021 and 2022 indie game nominations included titles such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Stray and Cult of the Lamb. Some of these game titles are backed by well-funded publishers, so one could argue about how appropriate their nominations are too. At the same time, Dave the Diver was something of an “extreme case” which is likely why the issue has gathered so much attention.
Considering the fact that the nomination of Dave the Diver has potentially taken the rightful spot of another quality indie game, it’s easy to see why the topic is generating so much heat, especially among indie developers themselves. It remains to see how the organizers of The Game Awards will respond to the voices of users and industry professionals.
Written by. Amber V based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2023-11-14 13:15 JST)