Indie Games (like Braid) are Punk Rock

According to rock lore, John Lydon aka Jonny Rotten of the Sex Pistols once wore an I Hate Pink Floyd t-shirt.

Johnny Rotten\'s I Hate Pink Floyd t-shirt

The standard interpretation is that the world at the time was full of symphonic (aka progressive) rock bands, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, doing massive concerts and overly pretentious, long and elaborate songs …

… and so the stage was set for Punk music, the songs of which were short, had low production cost, and which wrestled music from the claws of big corporations.

And this is my small comment on Braid in the Wall Street Journal: Indie video games are like punk rock, short, low production costs, wrestling our art from the claws of big corporations.

And we really should be wearing “I hate World of Warcraft” t-shirts.

10 thoughts on “Indie Games (like Braid) are Punk Rock”

  1. Suda51, of Killer 7 and No More Heroes Fame, also says he makes “punk games”. Even though I may not consider him independent (Capcom is his publisher), he certainly has an idea of what the term means to him:

    “All of this effort is so [Suda51] can create something appealing yet original, which brought him to the final Grasshopper slogan: ‘Let’s punk’. “What I mean by ‘punk’ is to destroy existing ideas and create something new, original.” And creating ‘punk’ games, Suda says, is always a fight.”

    This is a different way of thinking about “punk”, though I think it also applies to Braid. The Japanese have a funny concept of the term too (see

  2. Right, Indie games are way more interesting (and creative) than most of so called AAA titles ;) !

    The funny thing is, most mainstream publishers keep on claiming that “PC Gaming is dead”, but from an indie point of view, many more titles are released for PC than for console. Besides some masterpiece likes Braid, Everyday Shooter or flOw, few “punk” indie titles ends up on Live Arcade or PSN.

    A similar thesis is held by Derek Yu, who found some indie devellopers collective whose artistic statement has strong connection with Impressionism:

  3. I also immediately thought of Suda51 and Grasshopper. I for one loved No More Heroes and their somewhat obscure title Contact.

  4. As a fan of *some* punk rock and *some* progressive rock, I’m glad you said “the standard interpretation”, because “the standard interpretation” of the punk rock ‘revolution’ is demonstrably wrong in various aspects:

    1) Punk rock made popular music more ‘stupid’, unchallenging and cheaper/quicker to produce, which served the interests of the music industry much better than progressive rock. This is the real reason for the ‘revolution’. The sad fact is that since punk ‘happened’, any explicit intellectual exploration in popular music is confined to lyrics, or to obscure/marginal acts. Post punk rebellion is merely a strictly controlled phase of teenage culture, rather than the bottom-up flowering of diverse alternatives from the period 1966-1974. And I think our hegemons prefer it that way. (q.v. Naomi Klein).

    2) Years before the Sex Pistols there were the Stooges, the New York Dolls and even The Seeds (so-called “garage music”). Not to mention Bowie, the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed There was no ‘punk revolution’, it’s just that music journalists started collectively hating progressive rock around 1977, all of them hoodwinked by people like Malcom McLaren who believed in making money fast rather than exploring the medium. Punk was – ultimately – a Thatcherite movement.

    3) Many so-called punk bands involved themselves with progressive rock idioms: The Stranglers, one of the central bands in the punk revolution, has a 7 minute epic on its first album, called “Down in the Sewer”, which boasts all of 4 ‘movements’. They also made at least two ‘concept albums’. The Dead Kennedys were famous for elaborate packaging which rivals anything from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Then we have the Clash putting out not a double but a TRIPLE album (eat your heart out, Pink Floyd) etc. and of course the on-stage excesses of bands like U2, who think they’re so fecking street-credible.

    So… a more correct answer to this question would have to look for the ‘bourgeois in ripped plebian clothing’ as the ‘punk game’ and the ‘celebrated ivory tower intellectual’ as the ‘Pink Floyd game’.

    What about “I Hate the Myst Cycle”?

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