Indie Game: The Movie (2011)

29 Jan

Besides being a movie lover I have been a gamer as long as I can remember. My dad loved gaming as much as I did and he really spoilt me. The first game we had was a dedicated Pong machine (which I still own), but through the years we also had an Atari 2600, MSX, MSX2, Amiga, Gameboy, Mega Drive and once I lived on my own my gaming habits remained, having owned allmost all the new consoles that came out (Playstation 1 and 2, Dreamcast, Xbox 1 and 360 and the Wii). Unfortunately I don’t have the amount of time anymore to play as much as I used to, but I still occasionally enjoy my games and also try to spend time gaming with the kids. When I heard about this documentary last year I was really looking forward to seeing it as there aren’t many documentaries out on the subject.

As the title implies, this documentary does not look at the big budget AAA blockbuster titles, but focuses on the “bedroom coders”. These are the guys that have a dream of making a game and go through great lengths of bringing it all to fruition. The three indie games this film looks at are Jonathan Blow’s Braid, Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen’s Super Meat Boy and Phil Fish’s Fez.

Braid was already out when this documentary was being filmed. It’s a platform puzzle game, which uses time (which you can rewind) in order to solve puzzles. It’s a brilliant game, which I admit didn’t get around to finishing and Blow talks about what it means to him and what he thought about the responses he got about it. He actually didn’t enjoy much of it, despite the game being a big success. The main focus of Indie Game: The Movie though are the other two projects.

Phil Fish has had his game Fez (which has been released this) in development for years. He missed several deadlines and the gaming public was starting to wonder if this would be one of those titles that would never see the light of day. Fish though is hard at work on his game, but has gone through a lot of personal problems causing these delays. One of them is that he and his business partner have parted ways, leaving the game in a legal minefield and him not being allowed to show it. If he does, he will risk a lawsuit. Fish comes across as a very passionate guy that at one point declares he would kill himself if he wasn’t able to finish the game. He doesn’t refrain from telling what is on his mind and gets very emotional at times. It’s clear how much this means to him.

The Super Meat Boy guys are just as interesting. Tommy Refenes still lives with his parents and doesn’t have much of a social life, putting all his time into creating Super Meat Boy. His development partner, Edmund McMillen lives in a small apartment with his wife and also spends most of his time programming, with his wife complaining that she only sees the back of him and not much else. He tells us about his childhood and how he was different and sees game programming as his way to express himself, which the other subjects in this documentary do as well. Refenes and McMillen are filmed during the crunch to get the game published in time and during the release itself. Will their game sell or be a flop?

Although this a documentary about game development I saw it more as a movie that shows how people with a passion are driven to succeeding in making something they thought up a reality. It shows how they deal with the stress that brings and that despite their future not being sure still keep going and that’s inspiring to see.

Score: 8


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