I recently dropped a survey about a potential indie games mag onto the marble tiles of the internet’s most public forum, Twitter. It broke under the scrutiny of hundreds – thanks to everybody who pointed out that Question 29 didn’t need an answer box, and that I’d erroneously credited Andy Schatz with Spy Party rather than Chris Hecker – but I let its contents trickle down the cracks, flowing at right angles through the interested segments of the internet.

I nicked this image from Indie Game Mag, because it's ace.

The result is reams of stats about the playing and reading habits of a subculture of indie gamers, sourced from a relatively large sample (around 200) which has thrown up some intriguing points which I thought I owed it to you to share.

N.B. Whilst I’d like to think these results are representative of wider trends, respondents come mostly from a pool of my Twitter followers, their followers, and the most accommodating parts of the RPS forums. As such, any dramatic PC bias should be taken with a pinch of scepticism.

The first cause for brow arousal is the discovery of exactly who indie gamers are. It’s with the greatest condolences that I must inform you that 94% were men, with only 11 respondents admitting to being members of the fairer sex. Whilst anecdotally it seems to me that there are more female indie devs than there are women in key creative positions at major studios, it seems that some kind of indie jam affirmative action is in order.

86% fell within the broad spread of 18 to 35 years of age, with a clear majority in the 18-25 bracket. Shout out to the seven mid-teens who responded. I hypothesize, apropos of nothing but this, that indie games are something ‘discovered’ after years of intense interest in and/or frustration at the state of mainstream game design and pop culture; indie is not yet something leapt upon to defy the tastes of our parents, and we don’t yet have our NME.

The majority of indie gamers seem to be employed full-time, with 25% students and a further 9% unemployed, pretty much consistent with the UK national averageNot just hipsters after all, I can’t help but be happy to conclude. Indie gamers come from everywhere and do all sorts of things.

33% of respondents were employed in the games industry, with an astonishing 59% already self-employed as indie developers or aspiring to be so, a result likely skewed by the heavy concentration of indie devs on my Twitter feed. Nevertheless, it certainly proves that indie developers are immersed in the culture and the games of their peers; mainstream development reportedly leaves no time for videogames.

On and on, further up and further in, to the gaming platform question. I’m going to try and ignore the slightly dodgy PC stat (who doesn’t own a PC?) and tell you that all current generation home consoles were neck-and-neck, although notably the Wii owners slightly outnumbered the traditionally ‘core’ PS3 types. Adoption of both the 3DS and PS Vita has been extremely slow and cautious in what I’ll hesitantly call this demographic, with 11% and a tiny 6.5% indulging respectively. Neither have shown to be particularly fertile ground for indie development, and I wonder if this is an early sign that lack of support for small teams might be costing platform holders.

“But how do indie gamers buy?”, prompts Dubious Segue, my Mexican structure servant and stalwart friend. Well, they don’t buy into the event release cycle, that’s for sure. Only 1% claimed to always buy games on release, with a majority of 47% plumping for ‘Sometimes’, which seems an annoyingly vague option in retrospect.

More intriguing is the fact that more than half buy games released in alpha – that is, unfinished, usually with the promise of more features and eventual bug-quashing to come. Minecraft is surely almost entirely responsible for changing attitudes on this, and for paving the way to a world in which thousands will now gladly cough up for nascent projects in good faith that they will ultimately end up with something that plays like Their Kind of Game.

59% of indie gamers ‘usually’ buy games via digital distribution, thwarting with a flourish any lingering doubts about the worth of high street retail to indie devs. 98% have used Steam, with GOG.com following at a respectable 56%. Xbox Live Arcade sits at 42%, whilst Xbox Live Indie Games languishes at 26%; further proof if it was necessary that, even within its target market, few will brave Microsoft’s deserted clone shop (not to dismiss the significant but isolated successes of developers like Zeboyd Games).

In the gaming genre question, enthusiasm was particularly high for the declared dead, including point-and-click adventure games (67%), story-driven western RPGs (76%), turn-based strategy (65%) and the RTS (57%). One of the most popular was the immersive sim (73%), exponents of which include Deus Ex, System Shock 2 and the Thief series.

I’m reminded of Clint Hocking’s 2008 immersion talk (if anybody still has a working video link, I’d love to have it), in which he suggested that whilst (his) Generation X was reared on an insular, lonely definition of game immersion that it still clings to, for Gen Y immersion means interconnectedness with other people in-game people through our various devices and social platforms. Yet, for indie gamers at least, the immersive sim is still on top whilst social games (4.2%) remain virtually untouched.

That’s all for now, though there’s another similarly-sized piece to be written on reading habits and games media consumption, if interest is sufficient. Discussion in the comments section would be lovely to see.

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