Following the announcement of the nominations for the upcoming Game Awards, one nomination in particular has been attracting controversy on social media.

The nominees for ‘Best Independent Game’ are Cocoon, Dave the Diver, Dredge, Sea of Stars and Viewfinder. The inclusion of Dave the Diver has people engaging in discourse about what defines a game as independent, given that developer Mintrocket is a subsidiary of Nexon, a company worth billions in revenue and assets.

“Dave the Diver is made by a subsidiary of Nexon, a billion-dollar company. “Stylised non-AAA game” would be a more accurate category, but that’s not as cool as indie so who cares about the truth, am I right?” reads one tweet.

A discussion has been raised on what it means to be an independent game, with others using the strict definition of independent development and publishing and others saying an “indie game” is just an aesthetic and design philosophy.

“Indie is now simply a marketing classification to sell audiences on ‘games where you don’t have to kill things’ or ‘games that are zany and irreverent’ regardless of who made them,” says another commentator.

Technically speaking, Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3 is more of an indie game than Dave the Diver as the game was wholly developed and published by Larian, a development studio and not a diverse conglomerate. It’s unlikely that anyone would advocate for Baldur’s Gate 3 being nominated for an indie game award, though.

Although other nominees Dredge, Cocoon and Viewfinder are backed by the sizeable indie publishers Team 17, Annapurna and Thunderful respectfully, these developers are not owned by their publishers.

“Lots of people are saying it already, but I do really think it’s worth stressing, Dave the Diver is not an indie game. The game is published by Nexon and the studio themselves have specified they are not independent,” a popular content creator says.

There are also quite a few users unhappy that Dave the Diver, which they believe is not an indie game, was nominated ahead of the 2D platformer Pizza Tower and the action-adventure platformer Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

At the recent Golden Joystick Awards, the nominee lineup was identical but with the added inclusion of Pizza Tower. The award was won by Sea of Stars.

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