From directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky comes the independent film about the creators of indie games such as Braid, Fez and Super Meat Boy. Is this true story a fantastic glimpse in the lives of developers or is it just a cheap flick pandering to gamers?
Edmund McMillen lives in Santa Cruz, CA. He is the designer of the game Super Meat Boy. Together, with his best friend and programmer, Tommy Refenes, work hard to get their game finished in order to be showcased on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. Along the way, obsession, depression, and isolation become the focus as the two struggle with inner demons of childhood sorrow and modern day rejection. Tommy lives in Asheville, NC and coordinates with Edmund via the internet over every detail of the game. Super Meat Boy is not only a tale of a boy with no skin, but also a self reflection of the creators themselves. Just like how their character deals with the pain of being exposed to the elements, the two just learn to deal with it.
Phil Fish lives in Montreal, QC and is the designer of the game, Fez, about a two-dimensional boy who realizes that he lives in a three-dimensional world. After winning a “Best Of” award at an independent gaming awards show, he is thrusted into internet celebrity status. After years of delays and redesign, Phil struggles with his own sanity as he also takes on the heartache of his father’s illness, parent’s divorce, and a former business partner who has the potential of destroying everything he’s worked so hard on for four years. Can Phil get Fez finished before the internet critics deem the game unworthy to even care about anymore?
After so many unfinished prototypes of great ideas, Jonathan Blow decides it’s about time to actually finish a game. He creates a game by designing and programming it all by himself. Braid tells the tale of a preppy boy who travels through memories while being able to reverse time like playback from a VCR. Braid goes on to be the highest rated independent game of all time and garners Jonathan high acclaim and respect from the independent gaming community. But with success comes the self destruction of being under the microscope of the internet’s social media critique. It’s not that the game isn’t highly rated, but Jonathan suffers from internet backlash from his comments of gaming websites as he tries to “educate” people what the game really meant to him and can’t understand why others don’t get it.
Indie Game: The Movie is their tale on what it’s like to be an artist and why they create the games they do.
Even though documentaries are set in a non-fiction world, they still tell the a story. The best documentaries are those who even have a villain that the film’s protagonist has to fight against to come out ahead. I am a huge fan of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. In that film, Steve Weibe takes on the “evil” Billy Mitchell as the two fight over high scores in Donkey Kong. Now while it’s easy to point out the villain in that documentary, Indie Game: The Movie has a more powerful antagonist: the men themselves.
Indie Game: The Movie allows the audience to follow along the process of what it’s like to create a game independently without the funds, staff, and marketing of big name studios like Epic Games or EA. So why do it then? Love and ability. Love of gaming and a sheer ability to create. Why do painters paint? Because they can. While large studios create games like Halo and Call of Duty to entertain the masses, these particular artists make their game for themselves with the intention of making it available for the world to play.
First time filmmakers, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, do a perfect job capturing all four men as they struggle with relationships, sanity, and obsessive natures that at anytime can destroy their dreams. The main characters are intelligent and mature, but are also little children crying on the inside for acceptance. The best way to describe Edmund, Tommy, Phil, and Jonathan is to compare them to stand up comics. It is said that the best comedians are those who have overcome hardships in life and battle personal demons of abuse, addiction, and rejection. They then turn that negativity into an art form that is publicly considered genius. Now while none of the games’ creators have been abused or battle alcoholism, they all self implode as they try to overcome social awkwardness, obsession, and flawed perfection. The other point the film makes is that the creators live in an almost video game world with the completion of the game being their “final boss.” You feel the emotional roller coaster ride as they achieve their goals. It’s an almost euphoric feeling in the same light as finishing a level on Super Meat Boy. It’s unbelievable hard, but the rewards are well worth hardship.
Indie Game: The Movie sheds light on exactly what it is like to be a small guy with big dreams. You could almost replace the film’s characters’ occupation with that of an independent filmmaker’s, freelance writer’s, or starving artist’s and have an identical story. All don’t want to have a huge corporation telling them what to create, they just want the freedom to express themselves in the particular art form they are good at. The film does a fantastic job on all levels of universally hammering that point home.
As a gamer, I appreciated everything about Indie Game: The Movie. It shows a maturity level that I have been trying to explain to people who don’t understand my pixelated hobby. This movie also validates why I love both movies and games for their stories and character development. I also thought the choice of what particular games they chose was perfect in portraying games in their developmental, almost complete, and finished stages. I unequivocally highly recommend Indie Game: The Movie to not only my fellow gamers, but to anyone looking at getting into the gaming business or any type of independent occupation. It also has a universal message that even non-gamers can relate to.
Available for Download: June 12, 2012
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Director: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky
Cast: Jonathan Blow, Phil Fish, Edmund McMillen, and Tommy Refenes
Distributor: BlinkWorks Media
Official Site: http://www.indiegamethemovie.com
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