Independent movie directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky have brought us a much anticipated documentary movie that centers on the creative process and people behind the indie games Braid, Fez and Super Meat Boy. This is Indie Game: The Movie, and it’s available now for the whole world to see. It follows the individual creators of these games, showing the hard work and personal sacrifices they make while doing what they do best, which is creating a true form of digital interactive art.
Indie Game: The Movie can be enjoyed by different groups of people: those who know everything about indie games and love playing them, gamers in general, those who have the ambition of becoming a game developer themselves and those who just love to watch a very well thought-out documentary movie. It managed to capture the artist’s struggle and show this in such a way that you actually start to look differently at people who develop indie games in general. Although the ending is very much enjoyable, the documentary itself and the way it shows the developers fighting for their creative lives during the development process is heartbreaking to watch.
The movie focuses mainly on Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes from Team Meat (Super Meat Boy) and Phil Fish from Polytron (Fez). Jonathan Blow is presented in a different way, who is brought on the screen as a indie developer who already is a success. With the success that Blow already has and the wisdom that he drawn from the development and release of Braid, he can be considered as commentary for the narrative. Still, the movie shows what these guys had to sacrifice on a personal and financial level to be able to ship their game, and how many painful moments and how much suffering there is during the development process of them. However, it’s the story of Phil Fish that is the most intense of them all. While every developer is willing to kill themselves to just be able to ship the final version of their game, but Phil Fish takes this even a step further, mainly due to his ex-partner.
The movie has a lot of powerful moments, especially when you reach the end. A good example is when Fish needs to deal with his much-anticipated game that is constantly crashing when shown publicly on the PAX East show, or when the game that McMillen and Refenes (Super Meat boy) worked very hard on doesn’t show up on Xbox Live on the day of launch. Still, there is a big dramatic effect present and there are several moments that provide potential information and opinions to be explored, which doesn’t happen. Examples of this are when Refenes says that working for a big company like Electronic Arts of Epic Games sounds like “Hell” to him, without explaining why this is, or when Blow explains how frustrated he was by critics praising his game, without explaining exactly what happened in his mind. These kind of moments would be perfect to explain what defines the greatness of indie games, yet this topic stays unexplored.
Creating your own video games for a living seems like a dream for a lot of people, but Indie Game: The Movie succeeds in showing the viewer that there is a harsh reality that people in that situation have to deal with. It’s heartbreaking and enjoyable at the same time, but overall it gives the viewer a perception of what the life of an independent developer looks like. They don’t work in big teams, they don’t have a huge budget. They are just a handful of people who have a passion for making video games, and they – in my opinion – deserve every bit of success that they have.