Edmund McMillen, Tommy Refenes, Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow all have one desire: to independently produce games that are more fun and more challenging than what the big companies are producing. "Indie Game: The Movie" takes a look a the personal lives of these individuals and what is lost and what is gained while they attempt to make their own video games.
I will start off this review by saying I am not a gamer. I don't have anything against video games or people who play them; I use to play them myself (last system I owned and played was a Playstation). I just reached a point where I stopped playing them -- mostly because I sucked at them and most games ended with me shutting off the system and saying, "Stupid cheating game." Or more likely, "Fucking cheating game!" But with Ronny being an active gamer we usually end up talking about video games, even though I can't really keep up with conversations since I know nuffin' about them anymore. Our conversations is what lead me to watch "Indie Game: The Movie" since I thought it would be an interesting documentary to watch.
"Indie Game: The Movie" follows a handful of individuals who are trying to make it in the gaming world by making their own video games themselves. All the way from design to coding, we watch as partners Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes try to make a deadline for their game "Super Meat Boy". We also get to see the ugly and depressing side of Phil Fish's four year long struggle to complete "Fez" while being in the middle of a nasty legal battle with his former partner. The creator of the hit indie game "Braid", Jonathan Blow, is also in the documentary to discuss the ups and downs of being a successful independent video game creator.
Because it has been so long since I've played video games, the idea of an independent video game creator never crossed my mind. Not even when I attended a liberal-arts college and one of the major programs the school offered was game design. I never thought that there were people out there fighting and struggling to make games the way some people make movies. I just assumed everyone went off to help make "Halo", "Call of Duty" or whatever big game is out there. That element alone opened my eyes to a new world of video games and one that I find respectable. Not to mention a number of the indie games that are talked about in the beginning look like fun. Certainly more fun than the latest epic zombie shooter.
I was surprised to see how many reviews said "Indie Game" will only appeal to gamers since, as I said, I am not a gamer but I was still hooked by what I was watching. It massively has to do with the absolute DIY approach these guys have; they could go out and be the one in a thousand people who work on getting a big game made. For them, there was something better, more personal about creating an original but fun game that reminded them of the games that they loved when they were younger. Sure their games aren't as big and slick as say "Crysis 3" but that doesn't mean that they aren't as fun or as challenging. These are entirely passion projects for them. How does that not have universal appeal to everyone, not just gamers?
"Indie Game: The Movie" does it right by documentary standards -- it's an emotional look at what it takes to do something as complicated as making a game. It's not just: "Oh look, these guys made a successful game on their own and now their rich and famous!" I didn't know anything about these games so I was in suspense to see if Tommy and Edmund would make their deadline and if "Super Meat Boy" would do well. I wanted to now if Phil was going to win his legal battle with his former partner and if people we're going to like the demo of his game "Fez" at a convention. And hell, I even felt bad for seeing all the negativity Jonathan Blow received for being passionate about his game. To be fair though, you never correct a criticism for your work or tell people that "they don't get it." That's why the movie works. It's not just a good video game documentary. It is a good documentary. Period. It manages to take you on the emotional journey of these people while they try to live out their dreams.
When I hit the play button on "Indie Game: The Movie" I never intended on reviewing it; it was suppose to be a casual viewing. I was so enthralled with what I saw that I felt like writing a review for it. The movie really did open my eyes to a world of DIY-ers that I wasn't aware of that existed, as ignorant as that sounds. And it was a great watch and it made me have respect for the games and the people who make them. It's not an exciting documentary or at least it's not as exciting as video games are and it's not as silly as something like "King of Kong". It's a very personal look at the lives of people who put everything on the line to make something of their own and how far that pushes them to the edge. Maybe it is a bit over dramatic at times but I think any one who has experienced trying to accomplish something solo, no matter what it was, will find this to be a great documentary.