The other night I sat down with a beer and some friends to watch Indie Game: The Movie. I have a thing for documentaries. Most people would rather watch Die Hard 17 than anything educational, which means free streaming sites are rife with barely watched documentaries. The topics range from prison culture to life after a disfiguring bear attack — I watch ‘em all. So when I saw the heartfelt trailer for Indie Game: The Movie back when it first hit the blogosphere I knew I’d have to give it a watch.
The film was the end result of a successful Kickstarter, following three groups of developers at different phases in the arduous process of bringing an indie game from development to the consumer. I admit I had some reservations. Generally anything concerning video games that becomes even remotely mainstream fails to represent the medium accurately — see any video game film adaptation, the VGAs, and hell, even E3 to some degree. There is this tendency to try to Hollywood-ify the gaming industry, as if everything appearing on a television would benefit from Micheal Bay-ification, plastic surgery, and invasive advertisements.
To my pleasant surprise Indie Game: The Movie is all substance. Each developer is asked hard-hitting questions, such as how they put themselves into their work. Some answers were forced or underdeveloped, others were unmistakably from the heart. Edmund McMillen (of Super Meat Boy fame) speaks at length about his social awkwardness growing up in sunny California. He preferred to play games inside while most kids his age surfed or skateboarded. Later in life he would craft a game in which the player would solve a number of problems for different NPCs, each representing a crippling anxiety he’s dealt with his entire life. By the end of his heartfelt explanation, we were both on the verge of tears.
The film also examines the different struggles the developers face on their journey to realize their dreams. Most memorable, perhaps, are the complex legal hardships Phil Fish endures due to his partner jumping ship. This leaves him in an incredibly uncertain situation as both an important trade show and the game’s release loom overhead. ”If I see him, I’ll kill him,” he explains with an expression mirroring that sentiment. As the viewer, these frustrations and hardships were just as devastating to me, as I’d come to have a profound understanding of what was riding on the completion of each game.
Indie Game: The Movie masterfully paints a candid picture of fragile yet devoted individuals championing a fledgling medium. To them there is no other way to express themselves, and they’ll stop at nothing to make it happen. I was moved, inspired, and — best of all — educated. Can’t recommend this one enough.