I saw Indie Game: The Movie when it first premiered a few months ago. I’ve been holding onto this review for a long time and I’m glad I finally get a chance to tell you about this little movie. A film about the realities of indie game development; of the blood, sweat and tears that are shed throughout the process; and how everything is worth it in the end to realize one’s dreams. So hit the jump and let me tell you about this film for gamers, dreamers, and hopefully for the public who will understand the effort put into our so often misunderstood industry.
The film focuses on the development and release of Super Meat Boy by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes that constitute the whole of Team Meat as well as the development of FEZ by Phil Fish. This is a documentary that follows the lives of these game designers, takes a look into their background, motivations, and of the industry that they work in. What follows is an intense examination of the lives of individuals who make games not for profit or fame, but for a reason far more personal.
These games are a personal journey of self-expression. A method, possibly the only method, in which these men can communicate to the world all of their fears and vulnerabilities and to be accepted for it. They achieve this by creating a world of their own and filling it with these insecurities and creative flashes of genius with the goal of perhaps creating something others can play, enjoy, and establish a connections with other human beings.
Throughout the film, the focus shifts between Team Meat struggling with a fast approaching deadline for their game Super Meat Boy, a deadline they can’t afford to miss, and Phil Fish who has to deal with an ongoing legal battle with his former partner for the rights to his own game all while dealing with the insane amount of hype and media pressure for the release of his long-delayed game. Meanwhile Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, is brought in to give insight on the reasoning behind the question of “Why make games?” as someone who had already achieved amazing success in the indie game world.
It’s amazing to get a first hand look at these people and understand that they are more than their games. Instead we get a look at them as just people searching for the same things everyone else in the world. It’s hard in internet communities, to imagine that behind avatars, images, words, and names that we are sharing a space with billions of people who are just as complex and infinite. It’s a mistake that I’ve made before and suffered for. it’s a mistake that keeps on getting made. So for a film like this to come along and break down the barriers of separation is a truly wonderful thing.
Understanding the themes coming from the delightful Super Meat Boy are instead a result of the childhood fears and anxieties of its creators is another narrative surprise. For instance, I didn’t know that Meat Boy isn’t a wad of living meat, but instead a boy without skin whose every movements cause him excruciating pain and whose salvation lies in the arms of his lover, Bandage Girl. That Phil Fish understood the people wanted the release of FEZ, and knew of the collective anger on the internet that is downright vicious when directed towards a single individual. That Mr. Fish might not have even had a game to release had things turned out differently with his former partner, and how intensely frustrating it was to nearly lose years of work and love due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.
This is by far the most in-depth look into the process, the business, and the people behind the independent game industry and of the games industry as a whole. How it is seemingly more vast and complicated, mechanical and human than we might have assume. Entire careers are dangling in the process and simply having a creative idea isn’t enough to survive. But it’s a risk worth taking and it’s a pain worth enduring to see the actualization of one’s goals.
[+Reaffirms a love of video games][+Surprising, emotional, dark, joyous, beautiful][+Simply inspiring]
Directors James Swirsky and Lisanne Pijot have made a film as stylish and atmospheric as the games they cover. One screening and it’s easy to see just how beautifully shot the entire film is. I’m not a film critic so some of this terminology is a bit over my head but large, sweeping panoramic shots of Santa Cruz, Canada, and PAX East create an almost cold serenity that matches well with the personal stories of their subjects. One shot in particular was truly memorable with Phil Fish at a bar waiting for the beginning of PAX East as well as the fate of FEZ and whether it will see the light of day.
Beautifully edited, perfectly timed, and wonderfully shot this is not merely a movie about video games; it is a wonderful documentary and film in its own right.
The music deserves special mention as the original score was composed by Jim Guthrie of Sword and Sworcery fame. The soundtrack is every bit as wonderful as the work previously mentioned with ambient sounds, quiet melodies, and high crescendos, the soundtrack deserves to be listened to both in context of the film and stand alone as I am now while writing this review.
[+Aesthetically breathtaking][+Beautiful score][+Stylish, Atmospheric, and Sharp]
At $9.99 sold digitally DRM-free on the official website, Steam, and iTunes it’s hard to tell you this isn’t worth your money. With audio commentary and beautiful 1080p HD (I don’t know if this is for all downloads or just on Steam) $9.99 is a bargain. Now for those of you who are interested in a physical copy, there are 4 editions coming out on disk: The BluRay regular edition for $29.99, the DVD regular edition for $24.99, The DVD special edition for $59.99, and the BluRay special edition for $69.99, all of which are currently on pre-order. Now the regular editions contain only a few more extra features but are physical copies of the download with a beautiful cover. The special editions, however, are truly something special. Over 300 hours of additional footage, bonus materials with additional interviews, scenes, press tours, and behind-the-scenes, this is a loaded special edition that is definitely worth considering for any collector, film buff, or fan. Regardless of which edition you purchase, no one (gamer or no) should miss out on this film.
And so, in the end, it boils down to video games and why we love them. To most of us it’s more than idle time wasters. These are methods of communication between those of us who have difficulty communicating with one another. Of an amount of work that goes into these insanely personal projects, and how it’s all worth it in the end when you realize that there are people out there in the world who fall in love with something you have made. It’s not a feeling of accomplishment nor is it a feeling of pride but rather it’s a feeling of relief. A relief in knowing that your existence in this world isn’t a solitary one but one that has the ability to unite millions of people around the world over a common love and a mutual understanding. Video games are special and the culture around it is special. These are things that are dear to us and definitely dear to those who work in the industry. This is the stuff of dreams and though these dreams are built on pain and suffering. In the end though, it’s worth it just to do what you love.
[+Reaffirms a love of video games][+Surprising, emotional, dark, joyous, beautiful][+Simply inspiring][+Aesthetically breathtaking][+Beautiful score][+Stylish, Atmospheric, and Sharp][+Buy it]
Purchase the movie from the official website, Steam, or iTunes
Purchase the soundtrack from Jim Guthrie’s website