Seeing the world in pixels and polygons

Indie Game: The Movie Review


A compelling glimpse into the world of game development through the eyes of 4 indie game developers.

In this smart and somewhat chilling documentary, video game designer Phil Fish looked straight into the camera and proclaimed that he'd commit suicide if "Fez" (his brain child for the past several years) was not released or could not be completed. You get the feeling that he wasn’t trying to "do it for TV"; you see the sincerity in his eyes. That’s the level of depth and sincerity that the filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot managed to show here as they follow the daily struggles of an indie game developer through the eyes of 4 men who are desperately trying succeed in the often highly lucrative Video Games Industry.

A welcome introduction for the aspiring game developers, “Indie Game: The Movie” lays bare the passion that lies behind the pixels, illuminating the sweat, tears and sleep deprivation that goes into making a blockbuster indie game. This movie smashes the romanticisation of game development; it is cruelly ironic that in the everyday lives of game developers, fun and games are found to be extremely lacking. The movie actually shows that game development process is exceedingly strenuous - just look at the amount of hair left on Tommy Refenes head at the end of the movie. But for indie developers who reject the idea of toiling in teams of hundreds and under the thumb of a corporate overlord to produce a blockbuster video game, the work is even harder.


The movie features the creator of Indie hit “Fez” Phil Fish, who spent more than four hair-pulling years developing the much anticipated indie game "Fez" midst every challenge put in front of him including a split between him and his business partner, losing his funding and nearly his sanity. The movie also follows the long distance collaboration between game designer and artist Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes as they create “Super Meat Boy,” which went on to beat indie sensation “Braid” in first week sales. “Braid” creator Jonathan Blow also appeared in this movie offering his post-success perspective on indie games and commentary on the games industry itself. He also talked about his disappointment when a large portion of the gamers who played his game did not “get” the underlying message that he tried to convey, the movie also showed his obsession of trying to influence the perception of the game by going through comments on forums such as UGO and blogs which turned him into somewhat of a comical figure in the games industry.

Fortunately, the filmmakers did not overdo the finer points which might turn off non gamers, offering just enough insight into the creative process to feel instructive and inspiring . This soft approach enabled the filmmakers to focus more on the raw single-minded emotions and personal sacrifice that united the cast as well as illustrating the ways video game development are just as intense and emotional as other art forms. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

By Kenny Chen KangYi
Article syndicated from POPCulture Online
© POPCulture Online 2012

Indie Game: The movie is available on STEAM and on their website