Friday, May 4, 2012

Indie Game: The Movie - Review

Last night, I attended the Canada-wide premiere of Indie Game: The Movie. The film was broadcast via satellite to theaters all over the country, and while there were a couple of (minor) interruptions (due to a bad thunder storm), I was very impressed with the film. The premiere of the movie was followed by a Q&A session with the directors (and first time filmmakers) James Swirsky and Lisane Pajot, and Phil Fish, creator of the recently released indie game Fez.

Indie Game: The Movie offers a very up-close and personal look into the lives of some of the most high-profile modern independent game developers. The film does a great job of communicating the emotional, psychological and physical toll that comes with making an independent game.

For those who may be curious about how games are made, the film does give the viewer some small glimpses into the process. There is some insight shown into what went into making games like Fez, Super Meat Boy and Braid. Through interviews with the creators, you get a nice view of the nuts and bolts of what goes into the game and there are even some great discussions about theories on game design. Even more important to the film, though, are the stories of how and why people like Phil Fish and Edmund McMillan (one half of Team Meat, who created Super Meat Boy) got into making games. Hearing stories about their motivations and inspirations are what make this film great.

The heart of the film really is the personalities behind the games. You really do get great insight into their lives. You get to see the pressures and adversities that they face. The film acts as both an inspiration and a warning: yes, making games is very rewarding, but you had better be ready for the immense pressure that you'll feel and the sacrifices that you will have to make to get your game finished.

For me, the best part of the film was getting to know these indie gaming personalities much better. Some of these guys, like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish are known to make controversial statements. It was really great to see what these guys are going through. In a way, the film did a great job of humanizing them. These guys are my some of my heroes, and have long been deified in my eyes. It was interesting to see them for who they really are: just people. In seeing that they are "just regular guys", I obtained this new-found respect for these extremely talented, dedicated, and even flawed personalities. These guys are just as prone to breakdowns and loss of temper as anyone else, including myself.

As film, Indie Game: The Movie is terrific. It is beautifully shot and very well cut. There some very inspired shots in the film and you really get to see some very raw moments. The film features the story of the development of both Fez and Super Meat Boy and it does a great job of juggling both stories. Because of some technical issues, about 2 minutes of the film was missed, but other than that completely minor (and completely independent of the film itself) gripe, I have absolutely no criticisms of film. Then again, I am the exact target audience for this movie.

The post-film Q&A session revealed that the filmmakers are currently working with HBO on developing a series based on the film. I am completely overflowing with joy at the thought. A series that profiles and spotlights independent game developers would really be amazing! As James Swirsky mentioned during the Q&A session: there are some films about the medium of video games that exist out there, but they mainly focus on either the business itself, or the players (stories of obsession). I completely agree, and am glad to see that this film was not only made, but that it turned out as excellent as it did.

Based almost entirely on the subject matter, this is easily one of my favorite documentary films I've ever seen. But I do want to stress to everyone else that this is an excellent film. Even with the context completely removed, this is a truly beautiful human-interest film that anyone who feels passion about a particular subject (whether it is art, film, games, or anything else) should see.

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