For many of us, video games act as the ultimate escapism from the realities of life. The oasis from pressure, obligations and the expectations of others. It’s almost as though gaming becomes our nirvana, our light at the end of the tunnel. But what if this glorious world was instead the catalyst for all your woes? How then do you escape? How do you keep fighting the good fight?
Enter Indie Game: The Movie; a fascinating insight into the lives of those who slave to be an integral part of one of the largest entertainment mediums of all time. A documentary that puts aspiring independent game developers on centre stage as they live and breathe their projects in the glorious pursuit of gaining enough financial momentum to do it all again. Or maybe, to just buy themselves a cat.
Skilfully directed by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, Indie Game focuses primarily on three independent darlings: Super Meat Boy, Fez and Braid. Yes, they may be highly publicized within today’s marketplace, but rest assured, that wasn’t always the case. These development ‘stars’ are instead just regular gamers with a burning desire to share their vision with the world, and they most certainly have their problems.
Designer Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes for instance struggle with the sacrifices associated with hitting a major development deadline, critical to the success of Super Meat Boy. Their rush to the finish line continuously begs the question, how good is this success if there is nobody around to enjoy it with?
Similarly, being the primary developer on a highly anticipated game like Fez bears a weight most would rather ignore; but not Phil Fish. Having garnered himself a difficult reputation amongst his peers and critics alike, Indie Game almost makes you want to wrap your arms around Fish in a big warm hug as he furiously wrestles to hold onto his funding amongst delays and massive expectations and the possibility of severe legal action.
Then there is Jonathan Blow. Being the creator of one of the highest rated games of all time might sound like the ultimate walk in the park, but that isn’t always the end of the tale. And as Blow comes to learn, the online community is one where the venom certainly packs quite the punch.
For the duo’s initial foray into film-making, Pajot and Swirsky capture a surprising amount of soul and emotion into a relatively short running time. Watching McMillen and Refenes await the realise of Super Meat Boy is unbearably tense. Witnessing the borderline breakdown of Fish time and time again is painful, and reliving of the online abuse of Blow is downright heartbreaking. It’s to the film’s credit that such vulnerability is earnestly tapped into and built upon while being handled with such delicacy.
You will inevitably grow to care about the fate of these individuals, and despite the fact that most know the end result, the journey remains as powerful as ever. Sure, documenting a failure amongst the elation could have added some extra emotion gravitas, but what is on offer remains undeniably essential viewing.
Simply put, if you’re a hardcore gamer you should watch this movie. If you’re a casual gamer, you should watch this movie. If you have even the minutest knowledge of the gaming world, you should watch this movie. Indie Game: The Movie is the finest example of the trials and tribulations people are prepared to put themselves through for their art and for their passion. This time, that art just happens to be a videogame.
To ignore this film is to do a severe injustice to both the independent gaming scene and the world of gaming as a whole. After all, lest we forget those who allow us our escapes.
To find out more about Indie Game: The Movie, or even if you want to grab yourself a copy, head on over to http://indiegamethemovie.com/