Independent Game Development as Craft


  • Emma Westecott OCAD University


This paper celebrates the rise of indie game making as craft in order to explicate the ways in which this activity is both empowering for those involved as well as at risk of reproducing less desirable aspects of the contemporary cultural landscape. One only has to look at independent game festivals to see how few women and other traditionally excluded groups are visible center stage in this rapidly developing sector – if we are not careful then the very same exclusionary practices that are evident in the mainstream sector will become embedded here. Craft has historically been seen as 'women's work' and my positioning of game making as craft is an intentional feminist act to claim this space and its potential to both play with and against ‘for profit’ game development. This paper blends feminist aesthetics, new craft theory and indie game culture with the intent of identifying opportunities and strategies for inclusivity for the independent games sector. It will elucidate some processes in action but also, importantly, identify routes forward for building a diverse community of independent game developers.

Author Biography

Emma Westecott, OCAD University

Emma Westecott is Assistant Professor in Game Design and Director of the game:play lab at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada ( She has worked in the game industry (both mainstream and indie): in development, research and the academy. She initially achieved international recognition for working closely with Douglas Adams as game designer and producer for the best-selling Starship Titanic (1998, Simon & Schuster). Since then Emma has built up a worldwide reputation for developing original as well as popular game projects. Emma has worked in game research and education and directed research labs in Sweden and at The University of Wales, Newport where she organized the 2007 Women in Games conference ( Emma has several funded research projects at the game:play lab ( in areas as diverse as game futures, indie game culture, wearable games and feminist game studies.