Video games have long since been simply considered toys for children, throwaway experiences to pass the time. But as Indie Game: The Movie reveals, to those that make them they’re much more. So much more.
Documentary filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky follow the stories of three indie video game developers (the definition of which is someone who works in a small team, outside of the major publishers) and the progress of their games. Edmund and Tommy of Team Meat who are racing to finish Super Meat Boy, Phil Fish and his game Fez, (that was in development for five years and is stupendously ambitious), and Jonathan Blow, maker of Braid, which upon release provided a watershed moment in the history of indie games with amazing critical and financial success.
What’s most striking about the film is the amount of effort, blood, sweat and tears these people put into their games. They’re pulling from their own pasts to create intensely personal works of digital art, sacrificing their personal lives, pushing themselves to their mental and physical limits to be able to open themselves up for everyone to see. Raw and unfiltered. Not only that, their livelihood is on the line as well.
As a documentary everything just really clicks. The developers are really interesting people who are comfortable with telling their stories on camera (unsurprising, given their styles of video game making). It just amazingly compelling to follow their journeys and to learn about them as people, however cynical they may be. Phil Fish especially, as he’s famously outspoken and the closest thing there is to an auteur video game developer. He’s hell to work with but brilliant to listen to.
Indie Game: The Movie is a fantastically well made documentary, complete with great looking cinematography, clever editing and gorgeous info-graphics and transitions. It’s heart-warming to see such care given to a film about video game development, even moving.
The film, made possible through the crowd funding service Kickstarter, features some of, if not outright the best original music ever featured in a documentary. Jim Guthrie, who’s worked on multiple video games, has an amazing ability to capture the emotion of proceedings with his retro inspired, yet very futuristic instrumentation.
Final Verdict: Roger Ebert has said that video games aren’t art. He’s wrong and Indie Game: The Movie provides a damn compelling argument against him. On its own it’s a great, wonderfully made documentary about people following through on their vision, come hell or high water.