It may not seem like it now, but Super Meat Boy was one of the Xbox 360's most surprising success stories - indeed, one of the most surprising success stories of the last generation. An enhanced, expanded version of developer Team Meat's free flash game, Meat Boy, the odds were firmly stacked against it.
Super Meat Boy creators Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes at Team Meat really like cats. While Refenes only has one feline companion, McMillen has four - one of which, the hairless Tammy, played a fairly large role in Indie Game: The Movie, last year's high-profile film that detailed the team's plight as it created Super Meat Boy. Despite this, McMillen isn't afraid to call Tammy "a total bitch". I sure hope Tammy isn't reading this.
While driving to Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac mastermind Edmund McMillen's home in Santa Cruz, California, I find myself navigating winding highways to the tune of loud, aggressive ska-punk. The music raises a defiant fist against society's ills and screams of fearless rebellion - and while I don't doubt that the inspiration behind those lyrics is sincere, it gets me wondering: how do people who've hit it big going against the grain and making no secret of their disdain for mainstream society actually live? Do they change once the system starts working in their favor? How do they occupy themselves day-to-day? What are their houses like? Do their cats have fur, just like ours?
Back in the early '90s, the definition of 'indie' music went under a transformation. What had started as a tag for any act that released music without the help of a major record label became a way of describing - and selling - a sound and a lifestyle. Once it was all about crudely recorded cassette tapes and direct, intimate fan interaction; today it's Coldplay, with all the corporate fixings.
Canadian developer Brian Provinciano spent two months negotiating his contract with Microsoft to get Retro City Rampage on Xbox Live Arcade. It was, to say the least, a tough process - and one that he could have done without. It delayed the creation of the game, but in the end he thought f*** it, and signed on the bottom line.
Hard games are enjoying a revival right now. But while Demon's Souls may be notorious for offering a gruelling RPG experience, the most punitive titles are often to be found within the platform genre. And it's indie developers who seem keenest to add liberal dollops of pain to your gaming pleasure.
Last month, Nintendo held an event in London to showcase the line-up of near-future releases for its twin downloadable gaming catalogues, WiiWare and DSiWare. The context was exactly as you'd expect: a plush venue with spectacular views of the capital; a marketing presentation with words of reassurance for retail, and an undertone of envy for Apple's success with the App Store; a smattering of news, a few names showing faces (David Braben, Kenji Eno, Dave Grossman) and a star turn from a slick sequel, LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias.