Review: Indie Game - The Movie
Unfortunately, video games are not normally thought of as an art form in the same way that, say, films or music are. Mainly because most of us have very little understanding of how they are made. This appears to be the issue that Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky are addressing with their debut documentary, Indie Game: The Movie.
As the title suggests, its focus is not on blockbuster titles like Call of Duty or FIFA (though they would benefit from a similar treatment) but is instead on the far smaller teams that create independent, digitally distributed games. More specifically, Pajot and Swirsky interview the creators of Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez – three enormously successful releases built by only 2 or 3 people.
For two of those, Super Meat Boy and Fez, we are introduced to the creators in the middle of their projects and then follow them right up until release day. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes of Super Meat Boy and Phil Fish of Fez prove fascinating interviewees and hearing them talk really instils a sense of how personal the development process can be. Fish is particularly compelling; he literally swells with pride when, on camera, he demos a game he once built with his father.
It’s not all fun and games, though, as the release dates start to loom large we witness these guys come under such intense pressure that they begin to seem completely lost in their own work. When Fish is asked what he would do should he fail to get the game finished he replies, “I would kill myself”. He’s not joking. Nor do the difficulties end after release day, either, as Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, also makes an appearance reflecting on how he’s struggled to come to terms with his project’s (positive) reception. But if the documentary goes to dark places, it’s because it needs to show that this is a personal and creative industry – with all the pros and cons attached to that fact.
The only problem is that there’s no business talk. Microsoft are hinted at but, for obvious reasons, McMillen and Refenes can’t start bashing their distributors half-way through production. But, in the end, this is nit picking because Indie Game: The Movie successfully conquers uncharted territory by understanding, and explaining, what video games mean to those who create them.
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