Hollow Knight, Or How I Learned To Love Indies

Indie gaming is an important core of the gaming industry. In this Hollow Knight Opinion, our writer Ray will share his feelings towards indies.

If there’s something I oddly love doing with my PC, that is having everything organized into folders and categories. I say oddly because my house is basically a mess, filled with documents, books, and papers with doodles on them as far as the eye can see. But… regarding files on my computer? You bet I’m going to have that crap on a particular folder. The same thing goes with Steam games, but those are divided into categories that I made up in order to tell my brain “you had fun with this game, you can replay it” or “this game is f*cking awful, don’t bother even installing it“.

The categories are these ones:

Hollow Knight Opinion

Now, if you focus your attention on the one that says ‘GOD’, you might be wondering what kind of game this jackass thinks deserves to be under that category. If I’m right, then allow me to show you my personal Father, Son and Holy Spirit of gaming:

Hollow Knight Opinion 2

Sorry, sorry, but that usually happens when you gaze upon the sight of divinity. The games are Hollow Knight, Way of the Passive Fist and Timespinner. These three titles are basically the reason that I still play video games, and for that, I think they deserve this title. But today, I’d like to focus on one small title that tickled my curiosity. A game that made my heart grow and my eyes cry. Today, I’d like to talk about Hollow Knight, and why this game holds a special place in my soul.

Standing with tears in my eyes

If you read anything written by me or you follow me on Twitter, you should know by now that I’m a huge fan of Metroidvanias. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I was really damn hyped when I heard about a new 2D title that had an emphasis on exploration and discovery just like the classic titles of this genre. Sadly, by the time I heard about Hollow Knight, the Kickstarter was over (back on 2014, time sure goes fast), but at least it reached its goal and some others too! But of course, by that time the game came out in 2017, I had a really awful PC laptop that barely managed to run Solitaire without crashing. But that didn’t make me feel sad, but more eager to save money for a decent computer. Since that day, Hollow Knight became my constant obsession.

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Everywhere I looked, I only read good things about Hollow Knight. But the thing was that I only READ good things, but I never wanted to see anything about the game. I wanted to go completely blind. And then, the day came, and so did I. I had a good PC to play Hollow Knight, and that was the first game I bought for it. The moment I pressed the “play” button on Steam, I was in front of a mysterious menu with a soft tune playing on the background:

When that sweet piano sounded for the first time, I started to cry. This song reminded me of older times filled with bittersweet moments, and to me, it felt like the game was whispering into my ear “it is time, enjoy it”. And without further hesitation, so did I.

We build this city of bugs and bones

What makes the world of Hollow Knight unique (aside from its detailed backgrounds and atmosphere) is how well the name “Hallownest” captures the essence of the decayed city. Taking inspiration from Zebes, the layout of the map follow the same structure: we start from the very top and we descend into the depths of the city until we realize that we have to go deeper and deeper. However, the important difference between the homeland of Samus and this land of bugs is that Hallownest’s world is massive.

Hollow Knight Opinion

From forests to dark caves to dream realms oh my, these long-forgotten locations are just a treat to behold and to remember (which also works wonders for a Metroidvania title) when we are exploring the bowels of this civilization. In all my 50 hours of playthrough, I never felt bored while looking for new things on Hollow Knight, as the entire game was constantly teasing me with areas that looked remarkable yet inaccessible, only to find something interesting at the end of the path like an NPC or a new charm. Not many games make me explore every nook and cranny just for the sake of seeing what’s there, let alone offer me a good reward for doing it. Yet Hollow Knight always has this constant sense of teaching the player without intrusive messages or arrows telling you where to go.

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But now it’s time to talk about something important: the title of this article. Why this game made me love indies?

This is the part in which I make sense out of the title

My passion for indie gaming it’s old, really old. As I never had consoles aside from my trusty GBA SP and later my lovely PSP called Betsy, I had to survive by playing PC games. But don’t ever dare to think I was able to play impressive titles of the era, far from it. My old computer (named Jeremiah because he was rusty and grumpy as hell) barely was able to run Solitaire, let alone a demanding game. But luck was on my side, as I found out something better than big dumb triple-A titles: browser games.

Newgrounds, Miniclip, Armor Games, and many other websites were my playground. Thanks to these places, I was able to find great titles like Armed with Wings, Zombotron or The Last Stand. These games were my everything to me back in the day, as they felt like something completely different from the big pricey games for the big consoles. Not only they were free, but they also were interesting and charming. And guess which game began as a Flash title:

Hollow Knight Opinion

Hollow Knight (as well as games like Super Meat Boy or The Binding of Isaac) original concept was born in Newgrounds, as a small entry for a 2014 Game Jam. And even before this, I knew that Hollow Knight had this sense of uniqueness only present in this type of games. Of course, this was basically another blow to my nostalgic heart, so my enjoyment with the game grew even larger until the very end of it. That day, I made a decision: from that day onwards, I would support indie developers as much as I were able to.

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Keep on devin’!

Hollow Knight may be a 2017 title, but this game encouraged me to engage with the people behind the games I love. Big budget games do not represent the whole potential of the people who crafted said title. If they want to share some thoughts about anything online, they are usually scolded or directly fired from their positions. There’s also the fact that the only way companies know how to say “thanks for your effort” is by firing their employees, which teaches you how great people with suit understand gaming. But indies are nothing like that: they are great.

Do they have issues? Of course they do! They have to put tons of hours, sweat and tears on their creations without knowing for sure if their game will be successful. But when you engage with someone who fights every single day to make something either unique or just simple and fun, you understand why they are making video games.

I’ve talked with developers from Pakistan, Iran, Brasil, Bulgaria, Australia, the US, Spain and all of them share a sense of constantly learning from each other. It’s amazing to see people talking about what they love and helping each other even if they are living in every corner of the world. Just take a look at Insert Disk 22, they are basically the United Nations of Gaming Development in terms of diversity!

Hollow Knight opened my eyes to a whole new world of gaming. Not by creating a new genre or something similar, mind you. It accomplished this by teaching me that the best games out there are the ones made by those who started humble and worked hard to reach the place they stand now. And that’s why I love indies above everything else.

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