Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.  -William Pollard


Recently, we were asked by one of the students in our online game development course, what awards were available to help game makers get their games funded and created? So we thought we’d explore the answer in more detail in this blog post.

Indie games, by definition, are games that were funded, developed and marketed by small and independent game companies with usually a small amount of manpower to work on the project and no strong affiliations to outside sponsors, companies or platforms to help with funding, project management, manpower, administrative work and even marketing, hence the name “independent”.

The struggle which indie game devs go through to eventually produce their product, however, is a coin with two sides; what they lack in funding, manpower and proper game marketing they gain in absolute freedom of thought and creativity.

Any design directions which an indie game can undertake which usually would be scrutinized by their partners who fund and market the game for quality control or proper demographic targeting are totally abolished.

As such, the indie game devs have the possibility to pave the directions for the development of their game in any way they desire, usually leading to highly innovative and creative design decisions that if proven successful can later be adopted by high-end companies as part of their designing philosophy.

However, when I say that indie game devs have the possibility to innovate and design, that doesn’t always mean that they have the ability to actually do so.


While indie game devs have the freedom to direct their design philosophy however they’d like, that doesn’t mean it’s always a good one.

Many indie devs fall into the pitfall of trying to compete with high-end companies besides the fact that funding and manpower are not factors that are on their side, effectively making games that are underwhelming at best.

What they do have on their side however is the ability to innovate.

The question usually is are they both able and willing to take advantage of their natural advantage, and present us with a unique product or fall short trying to play catch up rather than “change the rules of the game”.


Some indie game developers are highly aware of their shortcomings, but of their advantages as well and instead of trying to push through a wall, they create a doorway to pass through.

These developers, fully aware of their rather tight funding and manpower available for their project, resort to ingenuity and creativity in the design path they paved for their game, using a thoroughly well thought out design plan.

Within it, they’ve collectively concluded on their endgame vision and have thought out the proper allocation of resources in order to manage to produce the desired game, having proper accent on what they aim to deliver as the main selling point with their game, yet innovating in areas that are somewhat treated as 2ndary objectives, but far from neglecting them.

If the main accents are the RPG elements, they’ll not aim at presenting high end and very costly graphics (see our affordable indie game art), but innovate in their design, whether using pixel graphics or even having the game be 2D (a most prominent recent example being Undertale).

If on the contrary quality graphics are their goal for their indie FPS, they’ll work on having a fast-paced and tight armaments control with low RP elements, having them kept at a minimal with intriguing yet one-dimensional characters for example, but far from excluded or totally neglected in the grand scheme of things.

There are many ways to work around an issue as an indie game developer if you have the proper vision on what you’re trying to accomplish, leaving you with enough space (both in finance and manpower) to innovate in less important aspects of your game to still pull through, even though more-so as a secondary objective rather than the main appeal of the game.

It ultimately boils down to the ability of the indie game devs to properly innovate with the design, providing some sort of an unorthodox main gameplay feature while still managing to properly handle all of the other aspects which a quality game should have, even though operating on a low budget.

There are many indie games that have pulled through with a quality design philosophy and proper resource allocation and have even earned awards for managing to present themselves as low budget yet imperviously enticing, some going so far as to create a separate videogames genre called which today is known as indie games.


IGF, a.k.a the Independent Games Festival is an annual festival, funded since 1998 at the GDC (Game Developers Conference) with a total prize pool of 50 000$ with a sole purpose to give presumably symbolic monetary awards to indie games that have made a name for themselves, but most importantly, to award them with some of the most prestigious game awards which are usually aimed but not exclusive for indie games.

Since then, the IGF has awarded dozens of indie games with different awards every year, split into 8 main categories (having the 8th added in 2013 which I’ll name soon*), with two additional categories reserved exclusively for students and amateurs.

The categories are the following (with included hyperlinks, leading for the list of all the games that have been awarded in the given category since the creation of the festival):

1. Nuovo Award (a.k.a Innovation award);

2. Excellence in Visual art;

3. Excellence in Audio;

4. Excellence in Design;

5. Technical Excellence;

6. Best Mobile Games;

7. Audience Award;

8. Excellence in Narrative*;

The amateur and student exclusive categories are:

1. IGF Student Showcase Winner;

2. Best Student Game/Best game mods;

By all technical means, these are some of the most prestigious awards that indie games can earn and if there’s something alike a Hall of Fame for indie games, the public IGF archives are their Museum in which the awarded games are stored, savored and showcased.

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