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.
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!
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!