Now don’t shoot the messenger (or harpoon) as I am simply remarking on what has turned out to be quite a curious case of identity in the realm of gaming.
Indie darling Dave the Diver had a meteoric rise to the top of the Steam charts earlier this year, a sleeper hit that introduced us all to the charming world of running a sushi bar and hunting down your very own ingredients. A delightful little game that had everyone aflutter with how great indie games are at introducing us all to new concepts and ideas in this dreary AAA-saturated world.
Only what if I was to tell you that we have all been bamboozled, because Dave isn’t actually an indie game.
As it is awards season, nominations for titles are being rapid fired out to recognise the plethora of awesome interactive goodies we have had this year – and one such lofty crown is the one that dictates the BEST INDEPENDENT GAME for 2023. And surprising no-one, Dave the Diver is appearing on some of those lists.
Only I lied. Because some people are surprised. And these are the people who know a little more about Dave’s diving experience – people who looked a little closer at who developed the game, and under what umbrella.
Now, let me be frank. I think Dave the Diver is a brilliant game – and I personally think it represents many of the more positive elements of game development. I do not posit my findings here as an attack on Dave and his diving enjoyment, rather it serves as a curious spotlight on the more easy-to-confuse facets of gaming.
You see, Dave’s game has all the trappings of a wonderful indie experience – slangin’ a quirky and fun little concept that you absolutely do not find in most big name titles. The only issue is that it technically did not come from an independent company. The developer is MINTROCKET, a “stand-alone brand of NEXON” – a somewhat massive, publicly traded gaming company. At a glance, this puts Dave in a precarious state when arguing that his diving fun could be wholly considered independent.
So much so that even Kim Dae-won, vice president of Nexon Korea has stated that Dave the Diver “may look like an indie, but it’s not necessarily so.”
In a piece penned by Korea JoongAng Daily, Kim Dae-won even confirmed that their strategy with MINTROCKET was to offshoot a smaller team, “to guarantee maximum creativity” – with their strategy to afford more time to the team for development, as a way to compensate for the smaller team numbers.
Do not vote for Dave The Diver.— Ricardo Juchem (@RicardoJuchem) November 14, 2023
Dave The Diver is not an Independent Game.
Despite the game's indie look, Mintrocket has stated that they are not an indie developer.
Mint rocket is a sub brand from Nexon.
Nexon net worth is $18.71 billion as of November 10, 2023. https://t.co/8ReRMPkfJ3
So basically, NEXON managed to emulate the main facets of indie game success (small teams, creative ideas, affording time to make things great) without actually having MINTROCKET commit to being a truly independent team. Huh, neat.
Of course, this has then resulted in a very fun little conversation across the web as many rush to ruminate on what an independent game truly is. The textbook definition is thrown around a lot, sure – but Dave the Diver is now rocking the heck out of that boat. Which is a fun diving-adjacent pun.
My favourite outcome is absolutely this incredibly weaponised community note on the platform X (formerly Twitter) that picks some choice words to effectively spell out “nu uh” to any onlookers:
It is a fantastic diversion of interest to the usual rumblings of award season – such as who was snubbed, why a game actually sucks, etc – with the simple argument of how the heck did this game end up in that category.
As for what will happen, if anything, it is worth keeping an eye on.
As for the rest of the awards season, well Dave the Diver already managed to grab a nomination and dodge the actual trophy over at the Golden Joysticks, so perhaps we all sit back and await the fallout when Dave harpoons himself an actual Indie GOTY win, eh?
Maybe the acceptance speech will be something worth remembering.
Do you like Dave the Diver? Did you think it was a wholly indie title too? Let us know in the comments or on social media.