June 12, 2012 2:00 PM | John Polson
After years of work and several awards (including Sundance) under its belt, James Swirsky's and Lisanne Pajot's Indie Game: The Movie is finally available to purchase through direct download, on Steam, and on iTunes. The documentary follows Phil Fish (Fez) and Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy) as they work towards the release of their games, with some Jon Blow (Braid) interview segments peppered in for added flavor.
The three arcs offer something different for everyone beyond the obvious game culture. Team Meat's story touches on family, feelings of isolation, and a beautiful parallelism to the characters of Super Meat Boy. Edmund and his work seems to be to me the raw and exposed Meat Boy, and his wife Danielle, the Bandage Girl that helps hold him together. Phil Fish's story explores legal complications and the dangers people face when partnerships dissolve.
Jon Blow's arc touches on an artist whose creation, while receiving universal praise, can be left misunderstood or uninterpreted and thereby leave its creator unfulfilled. Hopefully he gets his happy ending the second time around, with scholars and journalists delving deeper into The Witness.
While watching the movie, I wondered if Indie Game: The Movie was only for people who've attended PAX East, IGF/GDC, or who've worked or played with video games. By the time I finished, I'd say this is also for those who have dreamed of or connected to something bigger than themselves or those who seek an outlet, creative or otherwise, to communicate with others.
The film pieces together particularly the lives around Team Meat (the Refeneses and McMillans) and the drama of Super Meat Boy's release so well that it has the potential to impact a broader audience. I'd encourage people to show this film to those family and friends who support an artist and to non-gamers who want to comprehend the kind of positive, life-long impact games can have on a person.
Indie Game: The Movie also sheds light on the impact we as consumers and people in the media can have on developers, especially with our words carelessly strewn across social media. I really liked the movie's inclusion of the "let's play" videos on YouTube, which I thought before as most being ineffective by reaching only a small audience. Now I wager that these views come in part from the game developers, and that these are probably more personal, rewarding, and valuable to the game creators than most media reviews. These YouTube videos, like Indie Game: The Movie, capture raw, spontaneous emotion that words often fail to encapsulate.
While the transparency of indie game development allows a movie like this to be made, I hope more areas of our industry and culture warm up to being filmed. I would like to see perspectives of married developers with children (who need the promise of a steady income), those without family or friendly support, and students who have invested $100,000 or more in debt at the promise of a thriving industry only to not have a job upon graduating.
Other indies deserve a voice, too. I would appreciate seeing a story or two about those developers who spent just as many years, irreparably investing finances, personal relationships, and sanity, only to get rejected from Steam, Apple, and console companies.
There are tons of tales to tell and discussions to be had, and Indie Game: The Movie proves film is a powerful medium to share them. I hope people with a caliber of cinematography equal to James and Lisanne continue to do so.