Indie Game: The Movie Reviews
A documentary that follows the journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world.
This movie is a fascinating look into the lives of people who are putting everything on the line for the purpose of developing a game, and it gives due respect to a craft that really gets none from the average person. "Indie Game" displays the passion that these developers have - on more than one occasion, more than one of them contemplates suicide, with Phil Fish coming off as particularly passionate and psychotic. One problem that I have, though, is that the movie follows three games to begin with: "Super Meat Boy" (Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes), "Fez" (Phil Fish ), and "Braid" (Jonathan Blow), but since "Braid" had already been released, it is basically dropped from the second half of the movie as it focuses more on the deadline pressures of the other two games. Having recently read a fascinating interview with Jonathan Blow, the themes and tropes in this games are incredibly interesting, and the movie makes no effort to discuss them in anyway (though, funnily, it does display his frustration at the fact that nobody understood "Braid" upon release). Mr. Blow also has an interesting take on the video game industry, and I would have liked to see his, as well as the other developers' opinions on it, further than "Call of Duty sucks". Still a good movie that video-game lovers will eat up and that non-video game fans should watch to get a little insight into how games are made, the pressures that are felt, etc.
Directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky expertly establish the characters and what is at stake in this world that I frankly knew nothing about. The production value is top-notch as well and the interview footage is mixed with meditative shots of the world beyond the developer's screen. Most importantly, it puts a face to this art form. In this world of instant digital gratification, with millions of videos and games all vying for our short attention spans, it is an important reminder that there are still those out there who still put their souls into these products. In short, it is the best anti-piracy add ever created.
Akin to the desire to shoot to the last page of a great thriller in order to find out the identity of the killer, it took everything in me not to google the names of these people I was seeing on screen. For that, I salute the filmmakers for making me care so much for a craft that I originally thought I cared so little for.
Now, it is very hard to perceive those 3 games without thinking of the efforts behind it - this movie is showing the canvas of what I knew as finalized products and it makes you wonder: why didn't you see all the crafting of those games when you played them? Am I dumb and doesn't care about the vision of the game? Is it fair to not care about the details?
A very smart movie that I hope would allow some indie developers to continue their passions despites the struggle and the stress to not being understand... There is always a hope, just go ahead and try your best!
Other than maybe in my tweens, never in my life have I considered myself to be a huge fan of video games. Sure, certain games such as Yoshi's Island and the Mario Party and Pokemon will always bring back happy nostalgic memories, which I'm always grateful for, but not once have I obsessed over an existing game, or watched G4 in mad anticipation for an upcoming one. It's not that I dislike video games in general; even less nostalgic programmed diversions such as Call of Duty or Ratchet & Clank still provide enjoyable entertainment, and could, if on an extremely dull day, be played endlessly. From my own personal experience, they're usually engrossing for a couple of hours or even days, but as time gradually passes, so does the enjoyment. Unless you have an almost unhealthy love for the game, or an aspiring designer studying how it works, it's difficult to imagine playing the same thing for an extended period. However, as I watched the captivating documentary by first time joint directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, Indie Game: The Movie, I realized that perhaps my opinions toward video games have been incorrect the entire time.
The doc focuses on three separate independent game designers as they reflect on the processes, and sacrifices, involved in developing these complex operations almost entirely alone. Like the ancient samurai of old, these brave men are willing to squander their entire existence to perfect their craft of game engineering, while obeying the aggressive demands of both business partners and cruel online "fans". Though the film also serves as a delicious piece of geek porn for those interested in seeing the video games themselves while still in development, the two directors make the excellent choice to focus on the men behind the games, rather than the games themselves. They're choosing to, in great detail, examine the samurai and his cause, instead of broadly showing multiple samurais fighting.
What ensues is a compelling, thought provoking tale of the successes and failures involved in following your dreams without a safety net. Suspenseful and, at certain points, fairly intense, more credit goes to the film's duo directors for engrossing the audience in a story we already know the ending to. Indie Game: The Movie is an almost masterfully crafting directorial debut that makes me curious to see what subject matter these documentarians capture next. When the film inevitably comes to G4 later this year, check it out. This is a film that, if a large enough audience was reached, could far exceed its indie ambitions and become as popular as the video games featured.
Note: Yes, between the video games and samurais, that was easily the nerdiest review I've ever written. However, this will undoubtably be broken when Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is released.