Indie Game: The Movie should be really dull. Like proper ‘nerds sitting in bedrooms talking about software design’ boring. Somehow it’s all this and more. In a good way. Yes there are nerds in bedrooms talking about game design but the film puts human faces on these guys and by the end they become heroes.
Indie game the movie is a documentary following the creation of two independent videogames – Super Meat Boy and Fez. We get an inside look at what the teams go through to achieve their dream of crafting something gamers will play and love. It starts in a wickedly subversive way. We see Tommy from Team Meat on the day his game Super Meat Boy is released. He isn’t a happy bunny. His game isn’t on the front of the XBox Live store. He displays angry nerd behaviour swearing and pouting and generally acting like a child. The movie then goes back seven months to show the run up to this event and as you watch you completely get Tommy and why he’s so angry. Its such a clever way to draw you into this world.
Anyone who knows me know I love my videogames. A lot. But even a seasoned game geek like me couldn’t name a lot of the people who make them. There’s famous ones of course like uh, the Russian who made Tetris, and uh, the dude who designed Mario (don’t worry I know he’s called Shigeru Miyamoto). However my point is that these people slave away to make these amazing experiences and they don’t do it to become big names or super rich. They do it because they want to build something that people will interact with and enjoy.
This is no more apparent than in the case of the Super Meat Boy team made up of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes. Their game is a Mario-esque platform game featuring a boy with no skin. It sounds horrible but there’s a strange beauty to be found in the concept of a character who is extremely vulnerable to the world around him but keeps going no matter what is thrown at him. This is reflected in the creators themselves. They’re broke, tired, despondent but keep working to complete this simple little game.
The other game the film focuses on is Fez created by the fascinating Phil Fish. If you’ve kept up with the gaming press recently you’ll have heard that Fish has announced his retirement from game making due to online abuse he has received. A large amount of animosity has been building up since his appearance in this movie and presumably upset him enough that he’s walked away from games. Personally I don’t understand the over the top hate directed at the man. Yes he comes across as a bit of a dick in the film but he’s also passionate about what he does and reveals his hopes and fears openly so much so you start to understand him and empathise. At one point he proclaims that if Fez fails he will literally kill himself. And the way he says it and the look in his eyes shows that he means it and you believe him.
Even if you’re not a gamer go watch this Indie Game. It’s a wonderful insight into individuals who devote every waking moment to achieve something that might not even do well. You get to witness the blood sweat and tears put into a game about a little man with no skin who jumps around in his quest to find his true love. And if that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye then you must be dead inside!
Update: After posting this review I received a tweet from none other than co-director of the movie, Lisanne Pajot. Here’s what she had to say:
OK you heard her, get your asses over to indiegamethemovie.com
Have you played Fez or Super Meat Boy? Well you should, they’re both fantastic. Be sure to let me know if you’d like to contribute a Netflix title of your choice to the site, everyone is welcome!