Indie Game: The Movie – The Review

Tonight Jeannie and I went to see the premiere of Indie Game: The Movie at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz. Having only watched the trailer, I didn’t know much of what to expect. An independent documentary about independent game developers and their struggles with making games. The subject perked my interest enough to get tickets and make a night of it!

When we got to the theater, I knew that this was bigger than I originally thought. The line was longer to get in than I have seen for some established musicians. Granted, one of the game developers was from Santa Cruz, and there is a Game Design department at UC Santa Cruz that was probably offering extra credit to see the film. The crowd was who I expected to be interested in a film like this, neck-bearded programmers who haven’t seen the light of day in years, and some girlfriends who were obviously brought by their partners. I got slightly worried that Jeannie, my fiance who knows video games only from overheard conversations, might get bored watching the film. The less “normals” I saw, the more worried I got.

Phil Fish - Lead Designer of Fez

The film happened to be exceptional! This is something I would recommend to anyone who has ever heard of video games (no experience required to enjoy). From the beginning background score, I knew that a lot of time and thought went into the making of this film. It may be an indie movie, but it didn’t lack the quality of a full scale production. The cinematography was artfully done, with close up shots of the main characters that displayed their full emotion. The flow of the film was masterful, explaining three distinct game development stories while drawing strong parallels between them. Johnathan Blow portrayed the wise man with the successful Braid under his belt. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, creators of Super Meat Boy, were the film’s main driving force following the age old Hero’s Journey. And Phil Fish was the emotionally unstable underdog of the yet to be released Fez. The film made me feel these artists’ pain, anxiety, inadequacy, antisocial qualities, fear of failure, feelings of loss, and success as if they were my own. The times when I glanced over to Jeannie, I could read on her face that she was also enmeshed with the film’s characters, and enjoying every moment!

The full realization of how well the film was produced set in when the game developers got on stage during the credits for a Q&A session, and acted EXACTLY as they were portrayed in the film. Meaning, the film perfectly displayed their true personalities. I was giddy to meet the people I just went on an emotional roller coaster with. It was like finally getting to meet the Aragorn, Frodo, and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring after the battles over Middle-Earth. Instead of meeting some actor who played a part, I got to see the characters, the people. Like no other documentary I’ve ever watched, what I felt that what I just saw was real. It really happened to someone. It happened to them. They are the real life heroes!

Braid - Johnathan Blow

The film was able to grip my heart with the full knowledge that becoming a game developer was a life-long goal of my own. The message of the film was clear: You can become a game developer, but it is not without its late night coding, sleep deprivation, strain on relationship, and bending of your own sanity. However, it also shows that just one or two guys can make a successful game, as long as the gamers are willing to support the independent artists. The movie itself was created by means of  Kickstarter funds. Kickstarter is a new method of funding independent projects by asking for donations in the middle of development, and promising to give the donators a piece of the final product. Very similar to preorders, which have since been perverted by Best Buy and GameStop.

I highly recommend seeing Indie game: The Movie during its cross country tour.

As a follow up, I want to give a review of the games featured in the film. I only have a gaming PC so the soon to be released for Xbox Arcade, Fez, is out of the question (I dearly hope he makes a PC port soon!). I don’t yet have a copy of Super Meat Boy. So far the only game I have played is Braid, but it seems a little weird to review a game that came out nearly four years ago. However, since I didn’t have a blog then, and it is such a wonderful game, maybe I will!

Edit: Just read on Reddit that they gave out a gift at tonight’s screening! We had to leave before the Q&A ended, so we missed out on the free copy of Super Meat Boy 😦  Jeannie was even saying she wanted to try it out!

Super Meat Boy - Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes


About Skwalin

Web Developer and Designer by trade. Gamer and Internet Seeker by night.

Posted on March 3, 2012, in Game Development, Movie Review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Marc DeArmond

    We watched Chris play an entire run through of Super Meat Boy on Thanksgiving. It was a game that was simple in form and even amusing to watch casually. Perhaps the greatest feature is the encouragement of fast play through a replay when you finally beat a level with all of your past attempts being replayed simultaneously. The enjoyment of watching almost 100 little meat boys run through the maze of meat saws and salt with only one to succeed as the victor made the repeated deaths as you run through the game an enjoyment, rather than a frustration.
    I don’t see the game holding the same re-playability of something like Terraria, Dungeon Defenders, or any big release titles. But we say a good 5 hours of enjoyment out of it on Thanksgiving. It would probably squeeze another 5 hours out as well, which for the price $5 if you get it on sale seems like a bargain compared to $10 for a two hour movie.

  2. Great review honey! I loved that the film captured every character’s personality so much that you could see it represented in each of their games. Their strengths, flaws, fears, goals, and overall look on life were all conveyed through their games as well as the construction and development of them and how that unfolded for each character. LOVED it!

  3. I’d love to see this, but I’m in the UK. I’m really interested in seeing the journey (the highs and lows) to completing an indie game, even the trailer was inspirational to me. I’d see it in the UK if I got the chance.

    Also, Super Meat Boy is a fantastic game, you should definitely give it a try if you get the chance. Its beauty is in how simple it seems, yet it is unfathomably addictive and you always want to try and complete the levels. My favourite feature is that when you complete a level it shows all of your failed attempts at the same time in the replay, which quiet frankly just looks awesome.

    • I think after the tour they are selling DVDs.

      I did end up buying Super Meat Boy for the PC. I still need to get a game pad for optimal play. Keyboard controls aren’t cutting it!

      • I think I might invest in the DVD then.

        I’m fine with PC controls for Super Meat Boy, but I’ve never tried it with a controller so I suppose I don’t really know any better (as the splash screen constantly reminds me).

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