MOVIE OF THE MONTH — SEPTEMBER 2013
In seven months, designer Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes will release their video game, Super Meat Boy. Edmund has been in the gaming scene for quite some time, having developed numerous games in the last few years. His 2008 flash game Meat Boy was a hit, prompting them to release an upgraded Meat Boy, this time on Xbox.
Phil Fish introduced his game Fez back in 2008, and gained an overnight video game rock star status. Yet four years into development, the game is still not ready to be released yet. Some people don’t hesitate to curse him online, expressing how much they’re waiting for the game, or how they don’t even bother anymore.
Jonathan Blow worked on his video game titled Braid for 3 years before it was then released in 2008. Drawing both strong negative and positive feedback from gamers, it eventually ends up being the top-rated Xbox Live Arcade game and remains one of the most successful, critically and commercially.
Throughout Indie Game: The Movie, we see the struggles of Edmund, Tommy and Phil to get their respective games out there and how Jonathan reflects on his success with Braid. And what a rewarding experience it is to see these people putting their lives on the line for what they love—video games.
The term ‘indie game’ was quite unfamiliar at first, but then of course we realize that ‘indie’ probably exists in every art form. Be it movies, music, or in this case, video games. And you don’t have to be a video game aficionado yourself to appreciate these guys. You don’t have to have a single clue about video game development at all to understand their passion. Like billions of other human beings before them, these guys are just trying to express themselves through art. Only this time it’s not a form of art that most of us usually think.
Tommy has practically no social life. He goes to bed at 9 or 10 in the morning and starts working at 4, 4.30 in the afternoon. “I sacrificed having a life,” he says. He’s broke, he can’t date because how is he going to pick his girlfriend up? He hasn’t got a car. How is he going to pay for her meals? He just has enough money to buy his own meals. But he has no regrets. He believes in what he’s doing with his friend Edmund and he believes that all these sacrifices are worth making, regardless of the outcome. Whether it is a success or a failure, it is a bit of himself that he’s proud of.
If Super Meat Boy brings in the big bucks like it is forecasted to, the first thing that Tommy wants to do is pay off his parents’ house. And we see how these people are able to be where they are right now because of the unconditional support they got from their family. How many parents are there who would support their children wholeheartedly when they say they want to make video games for a living? Besides Edmund’s wife who supports him no matter what, his grandmother adored him like a prince and Tommy’s parents never fail at being supportive as well. Phil’s father used to help him create his own games since he was 9 or so, on their old school Macintosh. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see the support of these people’s families and personally, it invokes a little envy.
Filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky were the directors, producers, cinematographers, editors and distributors of the film. It’s like taking the spirit of indie to the utmost level. The film is made possible in part by using crowd-funding on Kickstarter and it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Like how the internet has changed everything in the gaming universe, as we can see in the film, Pajot and Swirsky embrace the digital world. They can even be seen commenting on several illegal download sites, not demanding their files to be pulled down, but rather just informing people how they can purchase the film legally. A remarkably admirable gesture, when you imagine how hard they have worked on the film. Not only that, they also provide a case study on their official website, sharing the experiences they had making (and distributing) Indie Game.
Indie Game has got everything you seek in a documentary—it introduces a topic which might be something completely new for some people; it tells the story through the eyes of a few characters that are relatable, that are not shy to open themselves up and let us know them better, and they undergo some sort of process throughout the film; and you are able to take something from it in the end. You probably learn something, you probably get inspired. Whatever the effect, it just speaks to you in a way. Making the film even more likeable is the fact that it’s so wonderfully shot and edited, with a very fitting music sore. Definitely one of the most delightful documentaries I’ve seen in a while.