Friday, March 21, 2014

Indie Game: The Movie Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/indie-game-the-movie-review-b920d4048e91#.q6dx8s94m

The struggling artist is a trope that we're all familiar with, but most of us don't associate it with video game developers. That is pretty understandable because until 2009 or so the only games we saw were big-budget games being put out by large corporations. With the indie game scene exploding in the last few years, it became much more obvious that there were people making games purely out of passion; people who put their financial stability and reputations on the line to create something beautiful. And that's art.

Enter Indie Game: The Movie, a documentary that sets out to tell a few of these developers' stories. It focuses on Jonathan Blow (Braid), Phil Fish (Fez), and Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy). In the case of Fez and Super Meat Boy, they interview the developers at several important points during the creation of their games. Fez faced a very long development and legal issues that drained Fish. McMillen and Refenes had to crunch to get Super Meat Boy out in time for an Xbox promotion. For all of them, the failure of their games would mean they would probably be finished with game development. Braid was already out by the time the movie was filmed, so Blow mostly talked about what is important to him about independent development. It wasn't nearly as emotionally intense as the other developers' stories, but it helped to frame them.

Even the music was indie game related. Most of it was by Jim Guthrie, and a lot of it was taken straight from Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. Being that I listen to that soundtrack on a fairly regular basis, it was pretty cool to hear them using the music in such an effecting way.

I was hoping that Indie Game: The Movie would be the kind of documentary I could show my parents to convince them that game development is an art form, but I'm not sure it would work for that. The best audience are definitely gamers; those of us who are already invested in the indie scene will get a lot out of the movie, and gamers who have previously only been exposed to AAA games could be encouraged to expand their horizons. Obviously all three games that were featured have been successful and are very well-known, but during the credits they show many other indie games; even I hadn't heard of most of them, and you can bet I will be looking into them.

This movie is definitely worth a look for anyone who is remotely interested in video games.