SXSW 2012: “Indie Game: The Movie” – Review by Matt “The Movie Analyst”

Small Video Game Developers with Big Goals

By Matt the Movie Analyst

Ask people on the street to list some video games and they will probably mention Mario, Call of Duty, or that yellow circle man with an eating disorder. Though mainstream big-budget games have evolved into complex productions requiring large teams, the heart and creativity in the end product can be lost along the way. With new services on PC and consoles such as Steam, Xbox Live, and Nintendo’s WiiWare, independent (indie) games can now be profitable and reach larger audiences than ever before.

Indie Game: The Movie focuses on modern day indie video game creators and their struggles of making the games that they want to play. They aren’t working for anyone other than themselves and put as much work into their projects as they want to — typically all day, every day for years on end. Specifically, the documentary follows the creative process behind three games: Super Meat Boy, FEZ, and Braid. Though two of the games have been released and seen tremendous success, this film shows the non-typical adventures that these teams go through from developing the idea to releasing their games in some form to the public.

This film’s strength is in the emotional roller-coaster the developers go through as perfectionists nearly driven insane from the stress involved like an ultimate video game level. Independent developers Edmond McMillen, Tommy Refenes, Phil Fish, and Jonathan Blow are all passionate to not only express themselves through games, but to also create content that will inspire young gamers in the way that they were with The Legend of Zelda and Tetris. Audiences who know anything about video games will be able to feel for these designers as they sacrifice their free time, social life, and complicated love interests to finish their dreams. These developers are vulnerable, just like their games, with their own personal glitches that make them just as unique as the products that they are creating.

Despite most of the interviews taking place in rooms and apartments filled with enough geeky memorabilia to make any collector jealous, Indie Game: The Movie stays visually interesting by including multiple angles, a great deal of b-roll footage of the developers out of their development bunkers with loved ones, and stunning game footage. The people on camera are also funny as they enthusiastically rant about what they love and hate about the industry. Fitting with the topic, the film features a technologically groovy chiptune-esque soundtrack that gives the film the same unique feel that the game developers strive for. Definitely press the start button on this one.

Matt the Movie Analyst’s final verdict: 8/10

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